Pseudotsuga menziesii

 

 

Common name: Douglas-fir

Scientific name: Pseudotsuga menziesii (pseudo-false, tsuga-hemlock)[1]

Plant family: Pinaceae

 

Description: This evergreen tree is large and upright at about 70 meters tall, sometimes more. They have a pyramidal shaped crown with one erect leader. Douglas-fir branches are spreading and slightly droopy and the bark is dark brownish in color, very furrowed, thick and mostly fire resistant.1 Leaves are flat, spirally arranged, evergreen blunt needles. They are dark green, 1-2 inches, leathery on top and whitish on the underside.  Pollen cones are small, pointy and reddish; found at the branch tips.  Seed cones are about 5 inches in size and oval shaped.  They have dark brown and flaky scales with three-pronged bracts sticking out. The bracts are light brown and papery, and resemble tiny mouse feet/tails.

Habitat and Range: Pseudotsuga menziesii is found in moist montane environments and extremely dry low elevation sites from Western North America from California to Canada.[1][2] Seeds often propagate in areas after a disturbance (such as fire).[1]

Historical and Contemporary Uses

Pseudotsuga menziesii has been used by PNW Native Americans in the coastal regions as a good fuel source, as well as a material for spear handles, harpoon shafts and barbs, dip-net poles, spoons, hooks, caskets, and fire tongs.[1] The sticky resin (pitch) has been used as a sort of glue to help seal joints in harpoon heads and fishhooks and for patching canoes and other water vessels.[1]

Young shoot tips/needles have a refreshing lemony flavor, and can be used for a food flavoring or for making tea that is rich in vitamin C and used as a coffee substitute.[2]  The resin from the bark is extracted and used like a poultice to treat skin wounds and ailments, or taken as a form of cough medicine/sore throat soother.[2]  A mouthwash can be made from soaking the shoots in water, and the young needles can also be used to help prevent odor/athletes foot when placed in shoes.[2]

Other uses of Douglas-fir include making of dye from the tannins in the bark, basket weaving from the small, young roots, trunk resin used as a caulking agent, and in glues, perfumes and candles.  The wood is a good fuel source and used as timber for heavy construction.[2]


[1] Pojar, Jim and Andy MacKinnon. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast.  B.C. Ministry of Forests and Lone Pine Publishing: Aburn, 1994.

[2] Plants For a Future Database. 1996-2010. http://www.pfaf.org/.

Photos: Predovich, Sierra. Oct. 14, 2011. Pioneer Memorial Cemetary. Eugene, OR.