Doug fir, larch, other conifers

Conifer list - a bit of general information here - see my encyclopedia for more.

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Most conifers don't grow nearly as tall in the garden as they do in the wild. Still, many become quite large. A few stay fairly small, such as shore pine, western white pine and larch. Conifers are great bird habitat, so plant some if possible. Conifers are seed plants, but not flowering plants, so they have neither flowers nor fruit. They are often grouped with Ginkgo and other "Gymnosperms," or plants with "naked seeds." This means seeds are not enclosed in an ovary, as in the flowering plants or Angiosperms (a fruit is a ripened ovary containing seed, unique to flowering plants). Just thought you'd like to know!

Scientific NameCommon NameComments
Abies grandis Grand fir Evergreen, 100-300 ft., some sun / moist-dryish. A locally common lowland fir with flattened needles. In the true firs (Abies), cones disintegrate when mature, so you rarely find them under the tree. Great bird habitat. (Pinaceae)
Abies procera Noble firEvergreen, 90-200 ft., some sun / moist-dryish. A beautifully symmetrical fir, often grown for Christmas trees. The branches are openly spaced and the needles are upright and brush-like. (Pinaceae)
Calocedrus (Libocedrus) decurrens Incense cedar Evergreen, 75-90 ft., sun / fast-draining-dry. Common in the mountains south of Mt. Hood. This is the tree of cedar chests. It prefers a warm, dry location and will scent the air on hot days. Great bird habitat. (Cupressaceae)
Juniperus communis var. montana Mountain juniper evergreen, 1-3 ft. X 4-5 ft. wide, mostly sun / fast-draining to dry. A prickly, spreading shrub or ground cover. Produces purplish, berry-like cones. (Cupressaceae)
Larix occidentalis Western larch or TamarackDeciduous, 30-50 ft., sun / moist. The larches are deciduous conifers - in autumn their needles turn yellow or bright gold before they fall (they're not dying when they turn yellow!). Larch has a graceful pattern in winter and new needles are bright lime green in spring. A beautiful tree birds will enjoy. (Pinaceae)
Picea sitchensis Sitka spruceEvergreen, 100-150 ft., sun to part shade / moist-wet. Sitka spruce will tolerate wet soils and the sharp needles make it less tempting to browsing animals. Good cover and nesting for birds. (Pinaceae)
Pinus contorta var. contorta Shore pineEvergreen, 20-40 ft., sun / moist-dryish. A great conifer for a small garden, this is the low-growing variety, native to the west side of the Cascades, near the coast. It can be kept small and does well in tough, parking lot conditions. Good bird habitat. (Pinaceae)
Pinus contorta var. latifolia Lodgepole pineEvergreen, to 80 ft., sun / moist-dryish. This taller growing variety of Pinus contorta is native in the Cascade Mountains and to the east and south. More good bird habitat. (Pinaceae)
Pinus monticola Western white pineEvergreen, to 60 ft., sun / moist-dryish. This pine doesn't get too big, making it a good choice for a limited space. The needles are somewhat silvery and slender, giving a soft effect to the foliage. Attractive to birds. (Pinaceae)
Pinus ponderosa ponderosa pineEvergreen, 60-150 ft., sun / fast-draining to dry. A beautiful tree and a dominant species in the mountains east of the Cascade crest and south through the Sierras. Bark is blackish in young trees, deep orange in older trees. Cones are prickly. Needles are long and shiny, giving the tree a glossy look. A tree that will please the birds. (Pinaceae)
Pseudotsuga menziesii Douglas fir Evergreen, 70-250 ft., sun / moist-dryish. One of the most common forest trees in local forests. Doug fir is fast growing, but intolerant of shade. Just the conifer for upland restoration projects. The birds will thank you! (Pinaceae)
Sequoia sempervirens Coast redwoodEvergreen, 75-100 ft. (much taller in the wild), full sun to part shade / moist-wet. Redwood is common in the coast ranges from southern Oregon into California. It is a beautiful, fast-growing tree, but not very cold tolerant, so does best in low elevation valleys. The fiberous, orange bark is attractive and the foliage is fragrant. (Taxodiaceae)
Thuja plicata Western red cedarEvergreen, 100-200 ft., sun to shade / moist-wet. This tree grows quickly and tolerates shade and fairly wet soils. needles are tiny scales and the foliage forms flat sprays. Because the wood is long-lasting and resists decomposition, trees are often planted in stream restorations to (eventually) supply large woody debris for salmon habitat. There are many cultivated varieties of western red cedar, including the narrow forms used in tall hedges and refered to as 'Arbor Vitae' (we carry only the wild type). (Cupressaceae)
Tsuga heterophylla Western hemlockEvergreen, 125-200 ft., sun-shade / moist. This conifer is common in local forests and can be recognized from a distance by the drooping tops. Cones are less than an inch long. Needles are quite short, but of different lengths - "heterophylla" means "different leaf." More great bird habitat! (Pinaceae)

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