Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Douglas Fir

Pseudotsuga menziesii ( Douglas Fir )

Reported to exceed 443 feet in Washington State ( pre 1900 )

British Columbia, Canada - 424 feet ( felled on 1895 )

Lynn Valley, B.C., Canada- 415 feet - 1902

Mineral, WA - 393 feet ( 1905 )

Nisqually River, WA - 380 feet - 1899

Douglas Firs are one of the worlds tallest trees, and in fact 2 Douglas Firs recorded in Washington State and British Columbia, Canada are likely the tallest trees to have ever grown in North America. While these extreme giants no longer exist, trees over 300 feet still grow in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver, B.C., Canada and my hike through the dark, dampened, mossy forest on a rainy August day staring up at the towering canopies in awe permanently cemented my passion for trees, conservation and horticulture. The driving rain in the canopies that give the coastal rainforest their name filtered down to a gently rain on the forest floor which was serenely silent yet felt like it was exuding life from every pore.
The Douglas Fir thrives in many places around the world and is even planted as a lumber tree in the British Isles where it grows every bit as fast and my someday grow as large as in the Pacific rainforest I describe above. It is native to western North America from British Columbia south to California and east to cover most of the Rocky Mountains and forms great forests over much of that region. It can easily exceed 200 feet in wet climates or grow to less than 100 feet in drier regions. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 7 feet; 5 years - 17 feet; 20 years - 120 x 23 feet; 47 years - trunk diameter of 3.1 feet; 70 years - 166 feet; 90 years - trunk diameter of 4 feet; 115 years - trunk diameter of 6 feet; 123 years - 210 feet ( England ); 180 years - trunk diameter of 10 feet ( England ); largest on record - 400 ( 329 confirmed modern ) x 70 feet with a 19 foot trunk diameter; tallest in Scotland - 213 feet; largest in Connecticut - 110 feet; largest in Maryland - 95 x 45 feet.
Young trees are conical though become more columnar and often flat topped with age. The branches are plume-like and the branchlets droop.
The Douglas Fir has been recorded living as long as 1400 years. A major lumber tree and economic driver, the Douglas Fir's timber is used to telephone poles, plywood and wood pulp. Douglas Fir is frequently planted both for timber and landscape in western Europe, as far north as Ireland and Sweden.
The narrow leaves grow radially from the shoots and are deep blue-green above and have 2 white bands beneath. The new foliage in spring is a fresh bright green. The linear leaves, up to 2 inches in length last up to 8 years.
The distinctive, hanging cones are green turning to red-brown and up to 4 or rarely 5 inches in length.
The thick, red-brown bark has deep fissures and corky plates.
The wood is light yet strong.
Typically hardiness depends upon seed source but may be from zone 4 to 8 tolerating as low as -32 F.
All species of Pseudotsuga prefer full sun on just about any well drained soil.
Propagation is from seed in spring though cultivars can be grafted in late winter.
Young trees should be pruned in March and is usually restricted to maintaining a single leader in young trees or removing lower branches for clearance as the tree grows.

* photo taken by A. Gaskill @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* photo taken by G.E. Griffith @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* photo taken by K.D. Swan @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* photo from family album taken outside Vancouver, B.C.
* photo of unknown internet source

* historical archive photos

* videos found on Youtube







'Densa'
A miniature form, reaching a maximum size of to 5 x 8 feet. Some records include: 10 years - 1 x 1.5 feet.

'Fastigiata'
A columnar tall tree. Largest on record - 130 x 25 feet with a trunk diameter of 4.5 feet.
The foliage is deep blue-green.

* photo taken on 4th of July 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum, D.C.


'Fletcheri
A slow growing, attractive, irregular shaped, flat-topped bush, reaching up to 4 x 6.5 feet in 14 years and an eventual maximum size of 10 x 13 feet.
The foliage is soft and blue-green.

'Fretsii'
A slow growing, wide conical small tree reaching a maximum size of 25 x 12 feet with ascending branches that twist.
Some records include: 10 years - 6 x 4 feet; largest on record - 72 feet with a trunk diameter of 2 feet.
The aromatic, linear foliage is dull dark green.
Hardy zones 4 to 7

subsp' Glauca' ( Blue or Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir )
A population of the Douglas Fir native to the Rocky Mountains rather than the Pacific Coast. It is native to as far north as Mackenzie, British Columbia and Edmonton, Alberta. It does not grow quite as large, however is still massively huge when grown on ideal sites. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 3 feet; 20 years - 50 x 10 ( rarely over 37 ) feet; largest on record - 200 x 65 feet with a trunk diameter of 8.5 feet. It grows dense with glaucous blue foliage and smaller cones. It is broader in habit than the coastal Douglas Fir.
It is also hardier from zones 3 to 7. One clone was reported growing in the severe zone 2 climate of Dropmore, Alberta and has even been reported to tolerate -62 F. Prefers soil PH from 6 to 7. It is more lime tolerant than coastal forms of Douglas Fir but does not enjoy shallow, alkaline soil. Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir is planted both for timber and as a landscape tree over much of eastern Europe.

* photos taken on August 5 2010 @ Woodlands Arboretum, Clinton, Ontario




* photos taken on Apr 11 2015 @ Belmont Mansion, Elkridge, MD
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E., et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook

* historic archive photos

* photo taken by Albert Everett Wieslander and the Marian Koshland Bioscience and Natural Resources Library

* photo taken by Herbert A. Jensen and the Marian Koshland Bioscience and Natural Resources Library, University of California


'Glauca Pendula'
A small tree, with a strong central leader and very pendulous side branches. Some records include: 10 years - 15 x 3 feet: largest on record is 75 x 20 ( rarely over 40 ) feet in size with a trunk diameter of 1.5 feet.
The foliage is powdery blue. It is a most spectacular landscape plant.

* historic archive photo


'Oudemansii
A small broadly conical tree reaching a maximum size of 25 x 13 feet with ascending branches. It is very slow growing and its linear foliage is aromatic, shiny deep green above and light green below. Hardy zones 4 to 7.

'Skyline'
Fast growing with somewhat weeping snakelike branching on a broad-pyramidal tree reaching up to 60 feet in height.
The deep green foliage turns to blue-green during winter.
Hardy zones 5 to 8.


DOUGLAS FIR RELATIVES


Pseudotsuga forrestii ( Yunnan Douglas Fir )
A large coniferous tree native to Yunnan province in China where it is endangered. Some records include: 13 years - 20 feet with a trunk diameter of 4.5 inches; largest on record - 133 x 50 feet with a trunk diameter of 3 feet.
The leaves are narrow and luxuriant green above with 2 white bands on the undersides.
The cones are conical and pendulous.
Hardy zones 6 to 9

Pseudotsuga gaussenii ( Gaussen Douglas Fir )
An extremely rare, moderate growing, large tree native to Anhui Province in China, that is related to Pseudotsuga brevifolia . Some records include: 10 years - 12 x 8 feet; largest on record - 133 x 65 feet with a trunk diameter of 3.5 feet.
Hardy zones 5 to 8 ( estimate - hasn't been fully tested north of 7 ).

Pseudotsuga guinieri
Native to mountains of Mexico and very similar to Pseudotsuga menziesii though likely will not grow nearly as tall even if planted in the ideal climate. It is also less hardy in cold climates, only surviving in zone 8 and 9

Pseudotsuga japonica ( Japanese Douglas Fir )
A large tree native to central Japan where it is endangered. It can reach a maximum size of 135 feet with a trunk diameter of 6 feet.
The linear leaves are up to an inch in length. The glossy mid-green foliage is spirally arranged around the stems.
The thick bark is brown.
Hardy zones 6 to 8; it thrives in the hot humid summers of much of the eastern U.S.

* historic archive photos


Pseudotsuga macrocarpa ( Bigcone Douglas Fir )
A very large, fast growing tree with a broad, dense pyramidal crown and branches that are gently arching. This tree native to the mountains of southern California where rare, can reach over 150 feet.
Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 2.5 feet; 20 years - 50 feet; largest on record - 200 x 85 feet with a trunk diameter of 8 feet. The Bigcone Douglas Fir can live up to 700 years and is strong wooded.
The leaves are narrow and luxuriant glossy green above and gray-white below. They are up to 3 inches in length.
The cones, up to 6 or rarely 8 inches in length, are gray-brown, later ripening to light brown but are only produced on older trees.
The bark is red-brown.
Hardy zones 6 to 9 tolerating as low as -13 F though the roots are only hardy to 10 F so that young trees in colder climates should be kept mulched in winter. Extremely drought tolerant but prefers a soil PH from 5 to 7

* photo taken by R.S. Hosmer @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
* photo taken by Norman L. Norris @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
* photo taken by Fred E. Dunham @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

* photo taken by Albert Everett Wieslander and the Marian Koshland Bioscience and Natural Resources Library


Pseudotsuga sinensis ( Chinese Douglas Fir )
A rare, fast growing, tall tree native to mountain forests from central to far eastern China. It can reach a maximum height of 180 feet with a trunk diameter of 7 feet. Some records include: 10 years - 12 x 8 feet ( average ).
The linear leaves, up to 1.5 inches in length, are deep green.
The shoots are reddish-brown.
The thickly scaly to deeply furrowed bark is gray.
The timber is valuable for construction and making furniture.
Hardy zones 5 to 9 ( still needs more testing since some seed source get winter damage even in zone 7a ); it is very tolerant of hot humid summers
and even thrives in central Florida.

Pseudotsuga wilsoniana ( Taiwan Douglas Fir )
A fast growing, large coniferous tree native to Taiwan where it is endangered. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 3 feet; 10 years - 14 x 8 feet ( average ); largest on record - 135 x 40 feet with a trunk diameter of 6.5 feet.
The needles are up to 2 inches in length. The luxuriant foliage is bright green at first, later turning deep green.
Hardy zones 7 to 9 ( unconfirmed reports of 5 & 6 ). Very tolerant of hot humid summers, it is known to thrive in the Carolinas.

1 comment:

  1. It would appear that taller Douglas fir may have grown in Washington state. A 465 foot fir having been reportedly cut near Mt. Baker in Whatcom county in 1897. Taller trees than this have even been reported by lumbermen.

    I was curious what documentation you found for the 424 foot fir in B.C. in 1895? I only know of a 415 footer in Lynn Valley measured by Jack Nye in 1902. My video documents this tree: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzaJ46d3ycA

    cool site

    ReplyDelete