|Douglas-fir is not related to the true firs.
This wide ranging species grows from 70 to 250 feet tall. The
branches are spreading to drooping, the buds sharply pointed
and the bark is very thick, fluted, ridged, rough and dark brown.
The needles are dark green or blue green, 1 to 1 1/2 inches long,
soft to the touch and radiate out in all directions from the branch.
They have a sweet fragrance when crushed.
Pollen strobili are small and reddish-brown. Young cones are
small, oval shaped and hang downward. They are reddish-brown
to gray, 3" long and do not dissipate to spread seed as do true
firs (Abies sp.). The cones open in the late summer to disperse
the seeds and will continue to hang on the trees through the fall.
Under natural conditions, Douglas-fir has established primarily
after fires on wetter sites. The trees can live for a thousand
years, largely due to a very thick bark that allows them to
survive moderate fires. Thus many ancient old-growth forests
contain large Douglas-fir that represent the legacy of fires
that occurred many centuries ago.
An interior strain from the Rocky Mountains (P. menziesii
var. glauca) has been extensively planted throughout several
midwestern state Christmas tree plantations. It is preferred
because of its ability to withstand the more harsh growing
conditions than the Pacific Northwest seed sources.
Nationally, it remains one of the most popular Christmas trees
species. It is shipped to the majority of the states and is also
exported to the Hawaiian Islands, Guam and some Asian markets.
Plantation trees are normally sheared and will produce a crop
within 7 to over 10 years depending upon the site and
Douglas-fir is one of the stronger of the softwoods and is widely
used for structural purposes. The sapwood is white to pale yellow
while the heartwood is orange-red with high contrast between
earlywood and latewood.
It is straight grained and moderately hard. It is used widely in
construction, laminated timbers, plywood and high grade veneer,
interior trim, cabinet work, pallets, boxes, ladders and flooring.
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