Monthly Archives: March 2014

Western White Pine, Pinus monticola

Western White Pine                                                                           The Pine Family–Pinaceae

Pinus monticola Douglas ex D. DonPinus monticola tree

(PIE-nus   mon-tih-KOE-luh)

Names: Western White Pine is a 5-needled, soft pine or white pine.  White Pines are so named because of the color of their wood. Monticola means “mountain dweller.”

Relationships: There are about 115 species of pines worldwide, 35 in North America.  The needles of pines are borne in bundles (or fascicles).  Pines are separated into two groups: soft pines, which usually have needles in bundles of 5; and hard pines, which usually have needles in bundles of 2 or 3.  Western White Pine is our one common (5-needled ) soft pine. We also have two common hard pines (one with 2 needles and one usually with 3 needles).

Distribution of Western White Pine from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Western White Pine from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution: Western White Pine is native to southern British Columbia, western Washington, northern Idaho, western Montana, the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and the Sierras of California.

Growth: They are fast growing when young and may grow 1½-2 feet (45-60cm) in a year.  In cultivation, they sometimes reach 135 feet (40m). The largest, growing in Oregon, near Fish Lake east of Medford, is over 220 feet (67m) tall.  Most of the largest, however, are in Idaho, growing in remnants of forests depleted by earlier logging and the devastating disease, White Pine Blister Rust. Some historical trees may have reached close to 240 feet (73m). White Pines can live over 400 years.

 

 

Habitat: Western White Pines grow in moist valleys to fairly dry, open sites.

Wetland designation: FACU, Facultative upland, it usually occurs in non-wetlands.

Western White Pine ConeDiagnostic Characters: White pines are easily recognized by their long, soft, slender needles in bundles of five.  They are nice to stroke.  The cones of white pines although still woody, are much softer than the cones of hard pines.  The scales on cones of white pines have no prickles and are often dotted with spots of white resin.

 

Western White Pine tall treeIn the landscape:  Western White Pine has an attractive, pyramidal habit.  It is best in large open spaces.  Because the cones can drip pitch in warm weather, it should not be planted next to patios or where cars will be parked.  The possibility of infection by White Pine Blister Rust is increased if the pathogen’s alternate hosts, currants or gooseberries (Ribes sp.) are growing within 10 miles.  However, the virtues of this pine make it worth growing despite the risk.  Resistant strains are becoming available.  Pines produce new shoots in the spring, called “candles.”  If it is desired to control the growth of pines, it is better to pinch back the elongating candles in the spring rather than shearing or pruning.

Phenology: Bloom Period:  Late June to Mid-July. Cones mature in August to September; seed dispersal begins in September.

Propagation:  Stratify seed at 40ºF (4ºC) for 120 days and sow on the surface of the soil.  Fresh seed is best.  Although seed may remain viable for up to 4 years, germination rates decrease dramatically in older seeds.  Cuttings are difficult but are possible using single leaf fascicles with the base of a short shoot taken from very young trees.  Pinus monticola has also been propagated using micropropagation techniques.

Use by People: Western White Pine was an important timber tree, particularly in northern Idaho and surrounding areas prior to the introduction of infected seedlings from Europe. (The rust disease had previously been introduced to Europe from Asia.)  Many early pioneers were familiar with its eastern cousin, Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus, and were happy to discover this larger relative.  It is prized for its soft, easily worked, fine textured wood.  It is good for moldings and window and door frames.  Wooden matches were made from Western White Pine in the 1920’s and 30’s. Native Americans boiled the bark and used it medicinally for stomach aches, and tuberculosis; it was also applied on cuts and sores.  The pitch was chewed like gum.

Use by Wildlife: Nationwide, pines are second only to oaks in their food value to wildlife.  In the Pacific region, pines are the most valuable.  They have nutritious, oily seeds that are favored by many birds, especially Clark Nutcracker, crossbills, grosbeaks, jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers.  Many small mammals, such as chipmunks and squirrels also eat the seeds.  Foliage is eaten by grouse and deer.  Porcupines and small rodents eat the bark and wood.  Pine needles are a favorite material for making nests. Large pines provide excellent sites for roosting and nesting; small pines provide good cover for many animals.

Whitebark Pine near Crater Lake in Oregon.

Whitebark Pine near Crater Lake in Oregon.

There are two other soft pines in or near our region. The Whitebark Pine, Pinus albicaulis is an alpine species commonly found in the Krummholz zone on the eastern crest of the Cascades, but a few grow in the rainshadow side of the Olympic peaks. The Sugar Pine, Pinus lambertiana found in southern Oregon and California has the longest cones of any American conifer, 10-26 inches (25-65cm) long!

 

 

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Gymnosperm Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Manual, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet + Landowner Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees

Subalpine Fir, Abies lasiocarpa

 

Subalpine Fir                                                                                The Pine Family–Pinaceae

Abies lasiocarpa treeAbies lasiocarpa (Hook.) Nutt.

(AY-beez    lay-zee-oh-CARP-uh)

Names:    Subalpine Fir is often mistakenly called “Alpine Fir,” Since alpine, by definition refers to the area above the timberline, where no trees can live, this tree is more properly called Subalpine (or below the alpine).  Lasiocarpa, means “rough fruit (or cones).”

Relationships: There are about 40 species of true firs in the world, 9 in North America.  We have 4 in our region but only the Grand Fir, Abies grandis, is common in lower elevations.

Distribution of Subalpine Fir from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Subalpine Fir from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution: It is widespread in British Columbia and the Rocky mountains reaching down to Arizona and New Mexico in isolated communities.  In our region it is strictly found in the subalpine zone of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tall spire-like growth of Subalpine Fir is an adaptation to withstand heavy snowfall.

The tall spire-like growth of Subalpine Fir is an adaptation to withstand heavy snowfall.

 

Growth: Subalpine Fir can reach 150 feet (45m) but usually only reaches 60 to 100 feet (18-30m).  In its natural subalpine habitat, it is often dwarfed and may only grow 1 foot (30cm) in 15 years.

Abies lasiocarpa loaded branches

 

 

 

Habitat:  Subalpine Fir is adapted to live most of the year under snow and in cold valleys.  It can withstand cold air flowing down from large ice fields. This hardy tree may cling to life for 250 years.

 

Young Subalpine Fir trees will actually bend down under the snow and spring up again after the snow melts in summer.

Young Subalpine Fir trees will actually bend down under the snow and spring up again after the snow melts in summer.

drooping subalpine fir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wetland designation: FACU, Facultative upland, it usually occurs in non-wetlands.

 

The bark of Subalpine Fir

The bark of Subalpine Fir

Diagnostic Characters: The foliage of Subalpine Fir turns up along its branches, similar to Noble Fir, but the needles are shorter and tend to be bluish-green.  The form of the tree is “spire-like,” very pointy and narrow, an adaptation that reduces the amount of snow that is able to build up on its branches.

abies lasiocarpa branches

 

 

 

 

 

Subalpine fir driftIn the Landscape: Subalpine Firs are very attractive growing in drifts in a simulated alpine setting or rock garden.  In fact, entire picturesque clumps are sometimes dug in the wild to be transplanted into a garden or made into a bonsai.  Although some trees are dug legally with a permit, it is still better to obtain nursery grown trees and train them yourself.

 

subalpine fir conesPhenology: Bloom Period:  Late Spring to early summer. Cones mature mid-September. Seed dispersal begins in October.

Propagation: Subalpine Fir can be propagated from seed using the same procedures as for other firs.  You may be able to filch a few seeds from a squirrel cache, but be judicious and leave plenty behind!

Use by people: As with other high elevation trees, the wood is not used much due to its relative inaccessibility.

Use by wildlife: Firs are useful to many animals for cover and nesting sites.  Grouse eat the needles.  Deer and elk eat the foliage and twigs in the winter.  Birds, chipmunks and squirrels eat the seeds.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Gymnosperm Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Manual, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet + Landowner Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees

 

Pacific Silver Fir, Abies amabilis

Pacific Silver Fir                                                                                      The Pine Family–Pinaceae

A mature Pacific Silver Fir in the Olympic National Forest.

A mature Pacific Silver Fir in the Olympic National Forest.

Abies amabilis (Douglas ex Louden) Douglas ex Forbes

(AY-beez   uh-MAA-bill-is)

Names : Pacific Silver Fir is also called “Lovely Fir.” In fact, the name “amabilis” means pretty or beautiful. It is also sometimes called Cascade or Red Fir.

Relationships:  There are about 40 species of true firs in the world, 9 in North America.  We have 4 in our region but only the Grand Fir, Abies grandis, is common in lower elevations..

 

 

Distribution of Pacific Silver Fir from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Pacific Silver Fir from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution: Pacific Silver Fir is found from the coast of British Columbia and in the mountains of Washington and Oregon.

Growth: The tallest are just over 200 feet (60m), but most only grow to about 150’ (45m). The largest are mostly found in Olympic National Park and Vancouver Island. Pacific Silver Fir lives about 400 years.

A young sapling and the mottled bark of an older tree.

A young sapling and the mottled bark of an older tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Habitat:  Pacific Silver Fir is our most shade tolerant tree and is the climax species of the Pacific Silver Fir Ecological Zone, which lies between the Western Hemlock Zone and the Mountain Hemlock Zone.   It grows in cool, moist rainforests and is sensitive to drought.

Wetland designation: FACU, Facultative upland, it usually occurs in non-wetlands.

The needle arrangement is similar to the fur on a dog's tail.

The needle arrangement is similar to the fur on a dog’s tail.

Diagnostic Characters: Like Grand Fir, Pacific Silver Fir has needles that spread horizontally from the sides, but they have shorter needles on the top that point forward and lie flat against the twig. This gives each twig an appearance similar to hairs growing on a dog’s tail. (It can only be “petted” one way!”

In the Landscape: Lovely Fir is not as easy to grow in cultivation, but is worth a try in a suitable habitat!

Phenology:  Bloom Period:  Mid-May to mid-June. Cones mature in August; seed dispersal begins in mid-September.

Propagation: Seeds should be placed in cold moist stratification for 28 days. Germination occurs best at 30°C Day/20°C Night, alternating temperature cycle. Germination is greater in dark than in light.

Abies amabilis branchUse by People: These trees are not highly valued for lumber, perhaps because the wood is not as resistant to decay and the tree’s relative inaccessibility at higher elevations.

Use by Wildlife: Firs are useful to many animals for cover and nesting sites.  Grouse eat the needles.  Deer and elk eat the foliage and twigs in the winter.  Birds, chipmunks and squirrels eat the seeds.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resource Canada

Gymnosperm Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Manual, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees + co-champion

Noble Fir, Abies procera

Noble Fir                                                                                        The Pine Family–Pinaceae

Abies grandis Abies procera Rehder

(Ay-beez    prah-SIR-uh or pro-KAY-ruh)

Names:  The name “procera” means “tall.” Noble Fir lives up to both its names, being both tall and noble!  It is the tallest of all true firs.

Relationships:  There are about 40 species of true firs in the world, 9 in North America.  We have 4 in our region but only the Grand Fir, Abies grandis, is common in lower elevations.

 

The distribution of Noble Fir from Silvics of North America.

The distribution of Noble Fir from Silvics of North America.

Distribution: Noble Fir is found in southwest Washington, Oregon and northern California, mostly in the Cascade Mountains with some isolated populations in the coastal mountains of Oregon and the Willapa Hills of southwest Washington.  Shasta Fir, Abies x shastensis, is a common hybrid of Noble Fir and California Red Fir, A. magnifica; found in southern Oregon and California.

Growth: One of the tallest known living trees, near Randle, Washington, was 278 feet (85m) tall but has been in decline since the area surrounding it was clear-cut in the 1960’s.  Currently, it sits at the edge of a clear-cut and, having lost its top 50 feet (15m), is now only 227’ feet (69m) tall.  Many of the tallest, including historical trees that have reached 325 feet, grow (or once grew) near Mt. St. Helens.  Noble Fir typically reaches 135 to 210 feet (40-65m) and lives about 300-400 years.

Abies proceraHabitat: Noble Fir is often a pioneer tree on middle to upper elevation sites, establishing itself quickly after a disturbance.  It can grow quickly and can even surpass Douglas Fir.  It is, however, shade intolerant and eventually gives way to Pacific Silver Fir, Abies amabilis, or Western Hemlock.  Its bluish-green needles give a forest of Noble Fir a much different appearance than one of Douglas Fir.  Much of the blast zone on the way to Johnston Ridge near Mt. St.Helen’s was replanted with Noble Fir (see feature photo at top of page).  It was planted at much lower elevations than normal due to the vast areas of land that were being replanted after the eruption, (Weyerhaeuser Co. planted 45,000 acres!) and to the fact that Douglas Fir seedlings were consequently in limited quantity.

Male cones and upward curving needles on Noble Fir

Male cones and upward curving needles on Noble Fir

Diagnostic Characters: All firs are easily recognized by the smooth bark on young twigs and small, round leaf scars left by dropped needles.  Older branches may be covered with resin blisters. Cones are borne upright in the tops of the trees.  At maturity, the cones shed their scales while still on the tree; therefore it is rare to ever see an intact fir cone on the ground. A favorite Christmas tree, Noble Fir is easily recognized by upward curving needles that grow on opposite sides of a branch. Ornaments hang nicely from its open, symmetrically spaced branches.

In the Landscape: It makes a beautiful specimen tree in the landscape.

 

 

Female fir cones are borne at the very top of the trees.

Female fir cones are borne at the very top of the trees.

Phenology: Bloom Period:  May to Early July. Cones mature in mid-August; seed dispersal begins the end of September to the beginning of October.

Propagation:  Stratify seed at 40ºF (4ºC) for 28 days.  Fresh seed is best but seeds may be stored up to 5 years.  Germination rate is often poor.

Use by people: The wood of Noble Fir is the strongest of the true firs and is suitable for light construction and pulping.

Use by wildlife: Firs are useful to many animals for cover and nesting sites.  Grouse eat the needles.  Deer and elk eat the foliage and twigs in the winter.  Birds, chipmunks and squirrels eat the seeds.

 

Noble Fir is a favorite Christmas tree species.

Noble Fir is a favorite Christmas tree species.

 

Care of Live Christmas Trees   It is best to keep live Christmas trees outside.  If you do bring one inside, try to limit the time kept inside to less than a week to prevent it from “breaking dormancy.”  If a tree has been kept inside too long it will need to be kept in a cool, well-lit room until spring or when temperatures are less frigid.  Keep the tree watered—do not allow it to dry out! Afterwards it may be planted at anytime!  Loosen the root ball and/or prune circling roots.  Keep watered in the summer until well established.–See Selecting a Christmas Tree on my sister website, habitathorticulturepnw.com !

   

 

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Gymnosperm Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

Jepson Manual, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Silvics of North America

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees + co-champion

Grand Fir, Abies grandis

Grand Fir                                                                                            The Pine Family–Pinaceae

Grand Fir TreeAbies grandis (Douglas ex D. Don) Lindl.

(Ay-beez   GRAN-dis)

Names: Grand Fir is also sometimes called Lowland Fir because it is the only fir in our area commonly found in lower elevations

Relationships:  There are about 40 species of true firs in the world, 9 in North America.  We have 4 in our region but only the Grand Fir, Abies grandis, is common in lower elevations.

 

Distribution of Grand Fir from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution of Grand Fir from USGS ( “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. )

Distribution: It is native from southern British Columbia along the coast to northern California.  In Washington and northern Oregon, it spreads east to the Cascade Mountains.  It is also found in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho and Montana.

Growth: The tallest known Grand Firs are just over 260 feet (80m).  Many of the biggest are on the Olympic Peninsula.   It typically only grows to 135’ to 180’ (40-55m) and is relatively short-lived, living less than 300 years.  Grand Fir grows quickly when growing in the open, more slowly in the shade.

Small Grand Fir Abies grandis

 

 

 

Habitat:  It is shade tolerant but less so than Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar.  It grows from moist river valleys to dry rainshadow forests.

Wetland designation: FACU-, Facultative upland, it usually occurs in non-wetland but is occasionally found in wetlands.

Older bark may be grooved.

Older bark may be grooved.

Diagnostic Characters: All firs are easily recognized by the smooth bark on young twigs and small, round leaf scars left by dropped needles.  Older branches may be covered with resin blisters. Cones are borne upright in the tops of the trees.  At maturity, the cones shed their scales while still on the tree; therefore it is rare to ever see an intact fir cone on the ground. Grand Fir is most easily recognized by its long needles borne horizontally on opposite sides of the twigs.  The entire branch will appear flattened so that it has distinct upper and lower sides.  White Fir, Abies concolor, which is native to southern Oregon, California and much of the Southwest, has a similar appearance but has silvery, blue-green needles. They often will hybridize where they are found together.

Needles are "two-ranked" and twigs are smooth.

Needles are “two-ranked” and twigs are smooth.

 

In the Landscape: When young, Grand Fir grows in a near perfect pyramidal, Christmas tree shape and is much fuller than its cousin, the Noble Fir, Abies procera.  Its attractive shape and its lustrous green leaves make it a glorious addition to any landscape.  Like most firs, it has a strong, balsamy, “Christmas tree” scent.

 

Phenology: Bloom Period:  Late March to Mid-May, in June at higher elevations and inland. Cones mature in August to September; seeds are dispersed a month later.

A grand fir at the nursery.

A grand fir at the nursery.

Propagation:  Stratify seed at 40ºF (4ºC) for 28 days.  Fresh seed is best but seeds may be stored up to 5 years.  Expect only about a 50% average germination rate. The greatest challenge is collecting the seeds when cones shatter at the top of the trees!

Use by People:  These fast growing trees are not highly valued for lumber, perhaps because they are not as resistant to decay. The wood is lightweight and not very strong. It is used for paper pulping and other light-duty uses.  Grand Fir makes an attractive Christmas tree.–See Selecting a Christmas Tree on my sister website, habitathorticulturepnw.com !

 

 

Grand Fir, Abies grandisUse by Wildlife:  Firs are useful to many animals for cover and nesting sites.  Grouse eat the needles.  Deer and elk eat the foliage and twigs in the winter.  Birds, chipmunks and squirrels eat the seeds.

 Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Gymnosperm Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Manual, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Silvics of North America

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet + Landowner Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees