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Pseudotsuga menziesii

Previously known as:

  • Abies menziesii
  • Pinus taxifolia
  • Pseudotsuga taxifolia
Phonetic Spelling
soo-do-TSOO-ga men-ZEE-see-i
Description

Douglas-fir is a large conifer, evergreen tree in the Pinaceae (pine) family that grows 40 to 80 feet tall when cultivated but as tall as 300 feet in the wild. It is one of the largest trees in the world, and one of the most important timber species in the United States. Young trees have a narrow and spired pyramidal shape with lower branches drooping and upper branches ascending. As the tree matures, it becomes cylindrical, loses its lower branches and resulting in branching only at the top third of the tree. This tree has unique forked cone bracts that is distinctly different from many other conifers. The cones are about 3 to 4 inches long and pendulous. The needles are flat, spirally arranged, dark green and up to 1.25 inches long with white banding on the undersides. They are fragrant when bruised or crushed. 

It is native to Southwestern British Columbia to West Central California. The Douglas-fir is the State tree of Oregon. It grows best in northern or northwestern climates of the United States. The species is found in coastal areas in elevations up to 5500 feet, foothills, lower mountains, cool mesas, and in some subalpine areas.. It is intolerant to the heat and high humidity of the Piedmont and Coastal Plains of North Carolina. The trees are grown with success in the mountains of North Carolina and sold as Christmas trees.

The genus name, Pseudotsuga, is derived from two Greek words, pseudo, meaning false or untrue, and tsuga, meaning hemlock which references to the fact that it is often confused with hemlock trees. The epithet, menziesii, is in honor of Archibald Menzies, a naval surgeon and botanist from Scotland. The common name, Douglas Fir, honors David Douglas who was a Scottish botanist. He introduced this tree and many other plants to Great Britain for cultivation.

Plant it in full sun, acidic to neutral, moist, well-drained, organically rich soil.  Keep it well watered since it is intolerant to drought. It is easy to transplant when it is small. The Douglas-fir is intolerant to heat, humidity, and warm temperatures at night.

 There are two distinctly different geographic varieties of the Douglas-fir. Coast Douglas-fir or var. menziesii is a large tree with dark yellow-green needles, large cones that is found on the Pacific coast.. The Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir or var. glauca is a medium-sized tree with shorter bluish-green needles, and small cones. Dwarf cultivars are available commercially. .

The Douglas-fir is a valuable timber producer and forest tree. This large tree provides winter interest with its attractive needles but is best left to natural woodland habitats. Growing to a towering height of 40 to 300 feet tall, it is not suitable for most home landscapes.

Seasons of Interest:

Foliage: Year-round             Fruits:  Late Summer

Quick ID Hints:

  • large conifer, evergreen, pyramidal when young, columnar with age and loses lower branches
  • bark on young twigs is smooth and gray, older bark reddish-brown, thick, and develops ridges and deep furrows
  • stems are straight, slender, reddish-brown with the long pointed, reddish-brown buds
  • needles are fragrant, flat, spirally arranged, up to 1.25 inches long, dark green to yellow-green or bluish-green with 2 wide stomatal bands on the undersides
  • male flowers are oblong, red to yellow and the female is reddish with long bracts.
  • cones are woody to semi-woody, light brown when mature, 3 to 4 inches long with rounded scales, 3-lobed bracts with small appendages on each bract that resembles 3 pointed tongues

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Weevils, bark beetles, spider mites, aphids, galls, and Douglas-fir beetle are potential insect pests. Shoestring rot, root rot, Heart rot, and needle cast are occasional disease problems.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Fastigiata', 'Graceful Grace', 'Idaho Gem', 'Vail', var. glauca, var. menziesii
Tags:
#cultivars#evergreen#large tree#pyramidal#conifer#winter interest#high maintenance#columnar#food source wildlife#fragrant needles#evergreen tree#Christmas trees#heat intolerant#humidity intolerant#full sun#dense#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Fastigiata', 'Graceful Grace', 'Idaho Gem', 'Vail', var. glauca, var. menziesii
Tags:
#cultivars#evergreen#large tree#pyramidal#conifer#winter interest#high maintenance#columnar#food source wildlife#fragrant needles#evergreen tree#Christmas trees#heat intolerant#humidity intolerant#full sun#dense#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Pseudotsuga
    Species:
    menziesii
    Family:
    Pinaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Used for lumber and in the production of veneer for plywood. It is also used for Christmas trees.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southeast Alaska, British Columbia to West Central CA, to Mexico
    Distribution:
    Native: United States--AK, AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, TX UT, WA, and WY. Canada--Alberta and British Columbia. Mexico--Mexico Central Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southwest. Introduced: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungry, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and Yugoslavia and the United States--NY.
    Wildlife Value:
    Birds and small mammals eat the seeds. Grouse, deer, and elk enjoy eating the foliage. It is also host to butterflies and moths such as Pine White and Ceanothus Silkmoth.
    Play Value:
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 40 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 12 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Broad
    Columnar
    Conical
    Dense
    Erect
    Open
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The cones are woody to semi-woody, 3 to 4 inches long, rounded scales, 3-lobed bracts and light brown when mature. Seed cones hang down and have small appendages on each bract that resemble three pointed tongues that start out yellow-green and ripen to gray or light brown. Seeds are light brown and have a yellow brown wing. They mature in on season in the late summer.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    This tree has male and female reproductive organs on different flowers on the same plant (monoecious.) The males are oblong, red to yellow. The female is reddish with long bracts. Both are found near the branch tips.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Leaf Type:
    Needles
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The needles are fragrant, flat, spirally arranged, may appear 2 ranked, 0.75 to 1.25 inches long, dark green to yellow-green or bluish-green, tips blunt or slightly rounded, and grooved above with 2 wide stomatal bands on the undersides.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Light Gray
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    The bark is smooth and gray on young twigs. As it ages, the bark becomes reddish-brown, thickens, and develops ridges and deep furrows.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Description:
    Stems are straight, slender, reddish-brown with the long pointed, reddish-brown buds. The stems also have circular leaf scars where needles fall off. The leaf buds are ovoid, conical, pointed, and not resinous.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Problems:
    Frequent Disease Problems
    Frequent Insect Problems