What is Oregon’s state tree? It’s the Douglas fir! Known scientifically as Pseudotsuga menziesii, these trees belong to the pine family and are an evergreen conifer species. Douglas firs are native to the western part of North America and are commonly found throughout Oregon. In fact, the trees are so common that about 8 of 10 conifers found west of the Cascades are Douglas fir trees.
The Douglas fir has been the official state tree of Oregon since 1936. Here are five fun facts about the Douglas fir tree that you may not know.
1. Its Different Names Honor Different People
The common name, Douglas fir, honors David Douglas. Douglas was a Scottish botanist and collector who first reported the potential of this species. He traveled throughout Oregon back in the 1820s, identifying different plants that he came across. He noticed the extraordinary nature of these trees and is cited for their discovery. To this day, a magnificent Douglas fir tree stands at Scone Castle in Scotland, right near Douglas’s birthplace. This specific tree is grown from seeds that Douglas himself sent back from western North America in 1826.
The scientific name, Pseudotsuga menziesii, honors Archibald Menzies. Menzies was also Scottish, but he was a surgeon and a naturalist rather than a botanist. During the George Vancouver expedition, Menzies was the first European to report the presence of the Douglas fir tree on Vancouver Island in 1793.
2. There Are Three Varieties of the Tree
There are three different varieties of Douglas fir trees. These three are the coast Douglas fir, the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir, and the Mexican Douglas fir. The coast and Rocky Mountain Douglas firs are both native to western North America, but the Mexican Douglas fir is endemic to Mexico.
Evidence does suggest that the Mexican Douglas fir is most closely related to the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir. Some may even treat it more as a variety of the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir than its own variety of Douglas fir. The Mexican government is protective over this variety in their country and has subjected it to special attention, as the number of these trees is small, they’re isolated, and they have low fertility rates.
Coast Douglas fir trees are the second tallest conifers in the world. As you may have guessed by the name, they grow well along the coast, whereas Rocky Mountain Douglas fir trees are much more cold-tolerant (making them a great choice for higher, mountainous areas) and grow much more slowly.
3. Timber From Douglas Fir Trees Is Extremely Strong
That’s right, timber from Douglas fir trees is super strong. Some even say that it is stronger than concrete. In fact, in the Midwest, Douglas fir timbers are becoming a more popular wood timber for construction. It’s used for both interior and exterior parts of construction. It has become a really popular choice since Douglas fir trees are native to the area and are at a reasonable price point for most people. It is also used for a range of things, from plywood to cabinets.
Surprisingly, Douglas fir wood is considered softwood, but it has features that allow it to be used in place of hardwoods. It has a predictable strength and high-quality appearance, which are big reasons why many people are choosing this type of timber in their construction. Additionally, it is very tough and has great longevity.
4. It’s One of the Most Popular Types of Christmas Trees
If you go to a Christmas tree farm during the holiday season, you will definitely see Douglas fir trees. It is one of the most popular Christmas tree species across the United States. It’s so popular and desired that these trees are even shipped to Hawaii so residents there can enjoy Douglas fir Christmas trees too.
Originally, most of the Douglas fir trees used for Christmas trees were harvested directly from forest lands. However, since the 1950s, they are more commonly grown on plantations. Some may still be taken from forests, but not nearly as many as in the past.
One of the main reasons Douglas firs are loved by many for Christmas is because of their color and fragrance. The dark to blue-green needles give it a beautiful color. The fragrance is soft but still noticeable and exactly what you’d associate with the holiday season.
5. They’re Important to Wildlife
Douglas fir trees are not only loved by people, but they’re loved by animals too. This is because animals use these trees as a source of sustenance and shelter. The seeds from these trees serve as food for many small mammals, such as mice, chipmunks, shrews, and red squirrels. Songbirds will eat the seeds right out of the pinecones. Even bears use these trees as a food source by eating the sap right off the tree.
Many raptors, like northern spotted owls, used Douglas fir trees for cover. One species in particular that relies on these trees almost exclusively is the red tree vole. These tiny rodents use the trees as cover for their nests, which are built into the crowns of the trees. They also eat the needles and use the trees as a water source by licking the moisture off the needles.
Aren’t you glad you asked, “What is Oregon’s state tree?” Now you not only now know the answer, but you also know some fun facts about it too. If you want to bring Oregon’s state tree into your yard, Mr. Tree can help. Contact us today and let us know, and we can help you bring a little bit of Oregon history to your home. They’re one of the most popular trees in our area for a reason.