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Pseudotsuga menziesii

Douglas Fir
Pinaceae
Evergreen, Trees

PSEUDOTSUGA

These big, handsome conifers include species native to the West and to Asia. Douglas fir dominates many forests from the Pacific Coast to the Rockies, and from Canada to Mexico; houses are often built among these natives. Growers have selected many smaller garden forms. The species name, which means “false hemlock,” and the common names “Douglas fir” and “bigcone spruce” hint at Pseudotsuga’s similarities with hemlock, fir, and spruce. But all are uniquely different trees.

Pseudotsuga menziesii

In cultivation, grows to 80–160 ft. tall and 20–30 ft. wide; in forests, regularly to above 250 ft. Pyramidal young trees are branched to the ground—perfect and widely sold Christmas trees. With age, trees drop lower limbs. Needles are soft, deep green or blue-green; radiate in all directions; and are fragrant when crushed. Branch ends turn up. Pointed wine red buds form at branch tips in winter, open to apple green new growth in spring. Hanging brown, oval cones are about 3 in. long, with three-pronged bracts, each resembling the hind legs and tail of a mouse. Attracts butterflies.

Along the coast, it is fast growing and dark green. The interior (Rocky Mountain) form, P. m. glauca, is slower growing, blue-green, more cold-tolerant, compact, and stiffer. Dwarf, weeping, variegated, golden, fastigiate, and other garden forms are sold. All tolerate wind and all but boggy soils. Resistant to oak root fungus.

 

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