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Special Topics

Evergreen Identification

Douglasfir (Pseudotsuga)

From a distance Douglasfir is similar in appearance to spruce trees.  Not to be confused with the true firs, Douglasfir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), at right, is another flat-needled evergreen tree thatís often planted in Central New York landscapes.

The coastal form of Douglasfir (P. menziesii var. menziesii) that's native to the coastal mountains of Oregon, Washington State and British Columbia grows more than 300 feet tall (that's right - 300 feet)!

Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountain form (P. menziesii var. glauca) is much smaller - it grows only to about 130 feet! This is the form that's frequently planted in Central New York landscapes, where it's estimated that a mature tree may grow only sixty to eighty feet tall and spread twenty to thirty feet. (The tree above is about fifteen feet tall and is currently growing between one and two feet per year.)

Regardless of the form, it's still a very large tree that should be used with caution in all but very large landscape settings!

From left to right; balsam fir (A), hemlock (B), yew (C), Douglasfir (D), and concolor fir (E).The straight, flat needles of Douglasfir have two pale white stripes running the length of each needle, similar to both hemlock and the true firs. However, its one to one and one-half inch-long needles are about twice as long as those of hemlock and both fraser and balsam fir, but only about half as long as those of concolor fir. (Note: from left to right in the picture at left; balsam fir (A), hemlock (B), yew (C), Douglasfir (D), and concolor fir (E)).

The cones of Douglasfir have distinctive three-pronged bracts that extend out from under individual scales.Possibly the most distinctive characteristic of Douglasfir, albeit on trees that are old enough to bear flowers (usually between five and ten years old), are its cones (at right). No other coniferous evergreen in Central New York landscapes has cones with elongated "bracts" extending out from under many of the scales (at tips of arrows). 

While its one to two inch-long needles can sometimes be confused with those of concolor fir, thereís no mistaking the large, pointed buds of Douglasfir!