The Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) has a conical to narrow pyramidal shape with the upper branches of the tree pointing up and the lower branches drooping and recurving. Leaves are short evergreen needles with two bands on the underside of the needles and spirally arranged on branches in two tiers. The cones are reddish brown in color, and have pointed bracts. The bark of a mature tree has fissures and a reddish-brown coloration. The tree was originally named after the 19th century Scottish botanist David Douglas who studied the tree in the late 1700’s. The Latin name means false (pseudo) hemlock (tsuga) because the tree is considered not to be a “true” fir. The discovery of this tree in British Columbia, 1792 by Archibald Menzies, is commemorated in its Latin epithet. The tree is native to western North America from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific northwest where it can reach 200 to 250 feet in height. The oldest known Douglas-fir can be found on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and is estimated to be between 1300 to 1400 years old.
Common name: Douglas Fir, Oregon Fir, Oregon Pine, Common Douglas Fir.
Scientific Name (family and order): Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirbel) Franco (Pinaceae, Pinales)
Species Origin: Western North America
New Jersey Status: USDA Native
Habit: 80’ – 330’ tall x 70’ wide; bole 2 -5’ diameter. North America’s second tallest tree. Straight tall trunk.
Habitat: Zone 4 – 6.
Trunk/Stem: Bark corky, purple brown, thick with red-brown fissures. Bud from shoots are pointed and orange-brown.
Leaves:Evergreen, needles to 1 ¼” long, relatively sparse, rounded and blunt at tip so not prickly; green above with two white bands beneath; crushed needles yield a sweet citrus scent. The soft needles are arranged all around the shoots. Notably, the needles are softer than the spruces or firs.
Flowers: Monoecious. Male flowers yellow emerging from the lower surface of the shoot; female flowers green flushed with pink at the tipe; in separate clusters on the same plant; blossoming in spring.
Fruits and seeds: Cones red-brown hanging (like spruces, not like firs), 4” long with three-pointed bracts projecting from between the ovuliferous scales. The cones ripen, shed seed and fall to the ground all in one season of about six months.