The Douglas fir of Oregon…

New Douglas fir cones.

New Douglas fir cones.

Take a good look – this is Oregon’s famous Douglas fir tree. It was named by the Scotsman David Douglas, who traveled to the Pacific Northwest looking for specimens to transplant in his homeland.

If you visit the Scone Palace in Perthshire Scotland, you can see the first tree he planted.

Around 1823, Scotland introduced fences to keep sheep and cattle from eating what they planted. With the animals contained, they wanted to beautify the castle grounds. Douglas, then 24, was sent to America to gather plants and seeds.

First, he sailed to New York and brought back new varieties of apple trees, oaks and all kinds of other plants, trees and flowers. After that, he sailed to the Pacific Northwest many times on a Hudson Bay supply ship. He returned from his first trip with:

1. Grand fir, white fir and Noble fir
2. Lodgepole pine, big-cone pine, sugar pine
3. Vine maple and broad-leaf maple
4. The madrona tree
5. California poppy
6. Sunflower
7. Honeysuckle
8. Lupin
9. Oregon grape
10. Forget-me-nots
11. Flowering currant
12. Bluegrass
13. Huckleberry
14. Bear grass
15. Snowberry

If Douglas hadn’t been killed at the young age of 35 (when he fell into a bull pit on the Big Island of Hawaii), Great Britain would probably look just like Oregon.

-Jan Jackson

Photos: The most common tree west of the Cascades is Oregon’s state tree – the Douglas fir. Take a good look  – the needles are flat and they lie flat on the branch. The brightly colored needles are new growth. The Douglas fir is not a true fir but Mr. Douglas didn’t know that (the biggest clue is that the cones hang down). Regardless, now you should be able to identify a Douglas fir yourself the next time you see one.

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