Whether you’re a Portland native or you just moved here a few years ago, it’s likely that what’s kept you here or drew you to the stunning Pacific Northwest is the expansive greenery and countless hikes to explore. Just stop by Powell’s bookstore, and you’ll find rows upon rows of books dedicated to local forestry and the top hikes to knock off your bucket list in the coming year.
But you don’t have to go far to experience the wonders of our metropolis. In fact, Forest Park, spanning 5,200 acres, sits at one of the largest urban parks in the country and has ample trails and trees for your viewing pleasure.
Want to get out into nature this weekend and gander upon some of our favorite Oregon trees? Just head downtown, and you’re likely to see these seven beauties:
1. Douglas Fir
It should be no surprise that you can find the Oregon state tree in Forest Park since it graces our flag and is amply represented around the community. While Douglas fir is actually the name for the entire genus, it also represents one of its six species and is the only one that’s native to the Pacific Northwest, which makes it special to us.
How do you identify this giant among the others when eyeing the countless Oregon trees on your hike? Start by tilting your head back, as the Douglas fir can reach 325 feet tall and has a trunk measuring up to 15 feet in diameter. It can also be recognized by its one-inch blue-green needles and particularly shaped cones, which are three to four inches long and have three-pointed bracts. No other PNW trees have this style cone.
2. Bigleaf Maple
This tree dominates in Forest Park, according to Portland Parks and Recreation. It makes up almost 50 percent of the canopy, so you can’t miss these Oregon trees along your hike. The bigleaf maple stands at 50 to 80 feet tall and may reach 300 years in age. These trees are often as wide as they are tall and can be identified by big leaves that are anywhere from 4 to 10 inches wide.
In addition to its green leaves, you may also enjoy seeing the large moss load, liverworts, and ferns hanging off the tree. It can support more moss than any other PNW tree!
3. Western Hemlock
The official state tree of Washington can be viewed in Forest Park as well. This large evergreen is often 160 to 230 feet tall with a trunk that’s just nine feet wide. And if you thought 300 years was a long time for a tree to live, the western hemlock beats the bigleaf maple by a landslide, as some have been known to live for 1,200 years!
You can identify this tree by its needles, which are a half to one inch long and green to blue-green. You’ll also notice its one- to three-inch-long, thin cones with rounded scales.
4. Red Alder
This birch is one of the smaller trees you might see in Forest Park, as it sits at 50 to 100 feet tall, like the bigleaf maple. The branches are thin and spreading and covered in alternating leaves. The leaves are dark green and long with pointed tips. The leaf edges are serrated or softly lobed. You can find fine, soft hairs on the underside.
This tree is even more identifiable come spring when it bears catkins—thin, cylindrical flower clusters—that are green-yellow and three to six inches long. But in winter, you can also look for white lichen, which often appears on the bark as the tree ages.
5. Oregon White Oak
This beech tree, also referred to as Garry oak, is just one of four deciduous oaks that you can find on the West Coast, and it too is located right downtown in Forest Park. It stands at 50 to 90 feet tall with a diameter of about half that size. Its leaves are three to six inches long and two to five inches wide and have seven to nine lobes on each side. In the spring it produces catkins that are about one inch long.
While these Oregon trees have little commercial value and were historically destroyed as the land was cleared for development, conservation is picking up in areas like Corvallis and new uses are being explored, such as using the wood in casks for aging wine.
Note that when looking for the Oregon white oak in Forest Park, you won’t be looking for a white tree. Instead, its name was given as the trees sometimes give off a ghostly white appearance once the leaves have fallen and the white lichen on the bark is seen.
6. Pacific Madrone
You will often spot Pacific madrone Oregon trees that are 80 to 125 feet tall. They can be identified by a smooth trunk, orange-red bark, white flowers, and red berries. It’s these pops of color that draw in your eye and make them a true wonder to enjoy, especially in the spring from mid-March to May. Once summer comes, take a gander at the leaves instead, as these trees also have distinct leathery, oval leaves.
7. Black Cottonwood
These Oregon trees are members of the willow family and can reach 100 feet tall with a six-foot trunk. The most identifiable feature, as the name suggests, is the rough dark-colored bark. The leaves are oval or heart-shaped and pointed at the end. This tree also produces catkins in the spring. They are one to three inches long. But these trees are even more identifiable by the fuzzy fruit that falls from the trees and almost looks like snow in summer.
While there are countless enjoyable hikes in our region, all you have to do is head downtown to view these seven Oregon trees and many more. Ready for your adventure? Use this information here to plan your next hike.
Want to plant your own native trees? Then reach out to our team today!