You may know them as your favorite type of Christmas tree; but have you ever wondered where Douglas fir trees come from? How old can they get, what types of habitat do they prefer, and where do Douglas fir trees grow, exactly? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Do Douglas Fir Trees Grow?
Douglas fir trees are commonly found in the Pacific northwest region of the United States, but they can be found elsewhere as well.
Douglas firs are native both to western North America and Eastern Asia. There are several subspecies of these trees found in different regions.
Those found in Asia are known as the Chinese Douglas fir and the Japanese Douglas fir. These two trees can be found in China, Taiwan, Viet Nam, and Japan.
The North American subspecies are the coastal Douglas fir, the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir, the bigcone Douglas fir, and the Mexican Douglas fir. As you can tell, their names give a pretty good idea of the regions where they are found.
North American Douglas firs can be grouped into two broad categories: coastal Douglas firs and interior Douglas firs.
Coastal Douglas firs can be found growing along the Pacific coast between USDA hardiness zones 4 and 6. They are particularly common in the northwest and are recognized as the state tree of Oregon.
Interior Douglas firs are all firs not found growing along the coast. These trees can be found in and west of the Rocky Mountains; they are found as far south as Mexico and as far north as Alaska.
What Habitat Do Douglas Fir Trees Grow Best In?
Douglas firs can tolerate a fairly wide range of growing conditions, though some varieties may tolerate specific conditions better than others.
For example, Rocky Mountain Douglas firs are far more cold-tolerant than the coastal variety. They are also generally found at higher elevations and endure more severe climates.
In general, Douglas firs grow best between USDA hardiness zones 4 and 6. They thrive in temperate environments with warm to hot summers and cool to cold winters.
Regardless of the subspecies, all Douglas firs need moist soil to survive, especially when they are young. They are mildly drought-tolerant once they are established, but long periods without rain or snow will kill them.
Douglas firs are sun loving trees. They can survive and even thrive in partial-shade environments, but they do best when they get plenty of sunlight.
That said, Douglas firs are relatively adaptable trees. They can live in a variety of habitats, including mountains, highlands, temperate rainforests, mixed temperate forests, and coastal regions.
Check out this video to learn more about Douglas firs:
How Long Do Douglas Fir Trees Live?
Again, the lifespan of Douglas firs can vary based on their subspecies and native range.
Generally speaking, Douglas firs are impressively long-lived trees. Most of the oldest Douglas firs in the U.S. did not die a natural death but, instead, were cut down for lumber.
It is thought that Douglas firs can live for 1,000 years or more. As you might imagine, such long lifespans can produce incredibly tall trees.
Currently, the tallest Douglas fir in the world is 327 feet tall. By comparison, the tallest Redwood in California is only about 50 feet taller, at 379 feet.
It’s thought that this tallest Douglas fir, known as the Brummet fir, is around 500 years old.
In 1897, a 465-foot Douglas fir was felled in Washington state. What’s more, rumors and stories among the loggers of the time suggested that some of these coastal Douglas firs could grow as tall as 480 feet!
We can only guess at how old these insanely large trees must have been.
Coastal Douglas firs get much larger than interior Douglas firs because they tend to have much longer lifespans. Those found in the Rocky Mountains and other interior regions are subjected to poorer growing conditions and, as a result, tend to die somewhat sooner than those in coastal areas.
That said, even interior Douglas firs can live for hundreds of years.
Douglas fir trees are found in western parts of North America and eastern parts of Asia. They can live in a variety of growing conditions but need moist, well-draining soil to thrive. Given the right conditions, Douglas firs can live for over a thousand years and grow to over 400 feet tall.