Oregon Focus: State Symbols: Tree

About Douglas-fir

view of fir trees from ground up
Douglas-fir trees at Silver Falls State Park. (Oregon State Archives Photo)
The Douglas-fir was designated as the official state tree by the legislature in 1939. Oregon was the eighth state to name a state tree. It is named for David Douglas, a botanist who described the tree on his first trip to the Pacific Northwest in 1825.
The Douglas-fir was chosen because of the leading role it has played in the economic development of the state. It grows mainly west of the Cascade Mountains, although it can be found in pine forests east of the Cascades, especially at higher elevations. The Douglas-fir is a native of 35 of the 36 Oregon counties (all except Sherman County). It can be identified by its flat needles about an inch long, and its egg-shaped cones have odd, three-pointed bracts (leaf-like structures).
While it takes about 150 years for it to attain maximum height in its natural state (which is quite fast-growing for trees), the most rapid growth occurs in the first 75 years, and most commercial timber is harvested by that time. However, on tree farms where near ideal conditions are possible, trees are sometimes ready for harvesting in 30 years. A tree that is 160 to 180 feet in height and 3 to 4 feet in diameter would yield about 10,000 to 15,000 board feet of lumber.
The Douglas-fir is a principal timber species in the United States. It has strength and stiffness, but a moderate weight, so that its greatest value is for structural uses. However, it is used for everything from Christmas tress to boat building to fine veneer decorations.

Suggestions for Teachers

objects made from wood
A student drawing of products built with wood from Douglas-fir trees.
Ask students to:
Invite an expert to discuss the Douglas-fir and its habitat.
List and draw illustrations of different uses for Douglas-fir.
Visit a tree farm. Draw pictures and write stories about the visit.
Plant a class Douglas-fir tree at the school or close by.
Use pictures to contrast Douglas-fir with other trees.
Compare branches and cones of Douglas-fir, pine, spruce, etc, Use all senses to detect differences.
Invite a logger to explain the different phases of a logging operation.
Invite a lumber or plywood mill employee to describe how mills process Douglas-fir.
Discuss how environmental issues (such as the Endangered Species Act) have affected the logging and processing of Douglas-fir in Oregon.