Douglas Fir tree identification

The Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii, a conifer native to western North America, was introduced in 1827. On the Pacific Coast it can grow to nearly 100m in height. It is now common in the UK in large gardens, parks and forests. It grows quickly and is usually tall and straight. Douglas Fir tree identification is by its soft needles, pointed buds and distinctive cone. The Douglas Fir is related to the Silver Firs but, unlike them it has a long thin, pointed bud. It can easily be recognised by its cone which has 3-pronged ‘bracts’ sticking out from its surface. The cones fall when ripe and are always found under the tree.

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir tree in a Plantation

Douglas Fir needles

The needles are soft and green

Douglas Fir needles

Each needle has 2 white bands underneath

Douglas Fir needles

Spruces have a woody peg where the needle joins the shoot but Firs just have a pad like this

Douglas Fir buds

The buds are pointed like a beech, quite different from the ‘true’ firs which have the latin name Abies. These are known as Silver Firs and all have rounded buds.

Douglas Fir cone

The cones are distinctive. They have 3-pronged ‘bracts’ as shown ringed in this photograph. There is no other tree that has cones like this. The cones fall when ripe and are always found on the floor under the tree. This differs from the Silver Firs and Cedars which have cones that break-up on the tree and are rarely found under the tree.

Douglas Fir bark

The bark of old trees has deep cracks in it