Douglas Firs are medium-size to large or very large evergreen trees, 60-350 feet tall. The name honours David Douglas, the Scottish botanist who first introduced them into cultivation in 1826. The needles are flat and linear, generally resembling those of most firs. The cones are distinctive in having a long three-pointed bract that protrudes prominently above each scale.
A California Native American myth explains that each of the three-ended bracts are a tail and two tiny legs of the mice who hid inside the scales of the tree’s cones during forest fires, and the tree was kind enough to be the enduring sanctuary for them.
The best-known species are the Green Douglas Fir on the Pacific coast, and the Interior Douglas Fir in the interior west of the continent extending from the southern Rocky Mountains to Alberta, Canada. Other less widely used names include Douglas Tree, and Oregon Pine. It is the state tree of Oregon.
The height of the tallest Douglas Fir ever documented was the Mineral Tree in Mineral, Washington, at 394 feet, measured several times between 1911 and 1925 by Richard McCardle, a University of Washington forester. The tallest living individual is the Brummitt (Doerner) Fir in Coos County, Oregon, at 326 feet tall. Only the Coast Redwood reaches greater heights based on current knowledge of living trees.
The wood is used for structural applications that are required to withstand high loads. Douglas Fir is used extensively in the construction industry. Other examples include its use for homebuilt aircraft. Very often, these aircraft were designed to utilize Sitka spruce, which is becoming increasingly difficult to source in aviation quality grades.
Douglas Fir is the most commonly marketed Christmas tree species in the United States, where they are sold along with firs like Noble Fir and Grand Fir. Douglas Fir Christmas trees are usually trimmed to a near perfect cone instead of left to grow naturally like Noble and Grand firs.