Douglas fir trees


When we moved into this house we were impressed by the large number of evergreens in the yard, as well as all those in the adjacent neighborhood. For the most part the homes, particularly the older ones were built with the native landscape at least partially in mind. Ours certainly was, for which we are eternally grateful. As a result a major portion of the forest that originally covered this land is still intact.

Having lived in Washington and Oregon for more than 40 years you would think we might have become a bit jaded with all the greenery by now; but we are still in love with all the plant-life, particularly the tall trees that have surrounded us most of the time. Cedars, hemlocks, Douglas fir, Big leaf maple, Red alder, and a dozen other species of tree have been the literal backdrop for the greater portion of our lives.

For the first half-dozen years we lived here we were content to just admire them. After all, a stand of giants, be they firs or cedars, should be a sight you just don’t get used to. And to have it growing in your backyard, literally, is simply wonderful.


But then an old Red cedar came down in a nearby neighbor's yard, and I became interested in knowing the cause. That in turn led me to spend a lot more time getting to know more about their natural history in general. The more I studied the more fascinated I became with all the trees growing on our property, particularly the big Douglas firs that dominate every other plant type on the property (Red cedars excluded of course).

That interest culminated in the idea for a project. I began making plans for its execution almost four years ago. Then health issues sidelined me for a bit. I’m only just now beginning to make some headway with a revised plan for photographing and cataloging the key characteristics of the more noteworthy and accessible specimens on the property.

It was during the initial research for this project that I discovered a bit of a mystery among the trees that line the rear of our property – two trees that that don’t quite fit in with any of the others we have.

Mystery Trees

The larger trees we enjoy daily are Douglas fir, and for the longest time I just assumed these two were of that variety. They are definitely young conifers of some kind or another, but their bark seems somehow different. One preliminary ID was Spruce, because the needles are somewhat sharp; but the idea has since been abandoned. Balsam firs were also candidates for a time, but were ultimately ruled out because of their range.

The two trees stand at the very rear of the yard. They are about 10 feet apart, and the lower sections are very overgrown with Hazel nut saplings and scrub Maple. Maneuverability – always a bit of a problem on rough terrain in the wheelchair – makes getting a clear shot of their full extent particularly challenging. That and things like a phalanx of stinging nettles that effectively block one line of approach.

In spite of all that, and with the help of a neighbor I have managed to get my hands on part of a lower limb, complete with some clean and well formed needles.


I’ve also managed to get a few shots of the lower section of the trunk of the largest.

MT bark 1

More than likely they are Silver firs, which are native to this area. But If they are Silver firs, then we have yet another mystery: that species is normally found at higher elevations, or in cooler, wetter environments. We are at about 200+ feet here, and our climate is what gets described as being “Mediterranean.” How did the two of them end up in this group of Douglas firs?

I will keep an open mind continue and with my project. In the meantime suggestions and comments are more than welcome! You can enter them in the comments section below, or email me directly at