By Jo-Ann Kaiser
By Jo-Ann Kaiser
OTHER NAMES HEIGHT/WEIGHT PROPERTIES Douglas fir is native to western North America, from Canada south to California and into Mexico. In the eastern United States, it is often planted as an ornamental tree. Douglas fir is also cultivated in Europe, Australia and New Zealand for its high-quality timber.
Douglas fir is native to western North America, from Canada south to California and into Mexico. In the eastern United States, it is often planted as an ornamental tree. Douglas fir is also cultivated in Europe, Australia and New Zealand for its high-quality timber.
Douglas fir is a cone-bearing softwood, meaning that it is not a "true" fir. True firs belong to the genus Abies. Douglas fir seedlings thrive in an open, sunny environment. Trees that spring up in a forest setting dominated by Douglas firs are likely to be hemlocks, which grow well in shady conditions.
World's Premier Industrial Tree
"Thus has white pine fallen from first place among the timber trees of the continent; thus has Douglas fir (which no American had ever seen or heard of when the keel of the Constitution was being laid), risen to position of premier industrial tree of the world." Peattie contends that the "noble" species which took white pine's place "is quite as versatile in fulfilling a hundred vital uses and many fold as abundant."
Douglas fir is one of the most versatile of the domestic wood species, with uses that include plywood, heavy construction, studding, floor boards, roof trusses, floor and ceiling joists, beams, interior and exterior joinery, marine piling, mining timber and dock and harbor-building material.
Second-growth trees have been used to produce thousands and thousands of miles of railroad track ties. Whole trees were once used to make telegraph and telephone poles. Douglas fir slabs and waste are an excellent source of firewood. The wood was at one time used widely for cooperage to make vats and tanks to hold an array of liquids from beer and liquor to chemicals.
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"They are fertile; they are vigorous; they are very fast growing," Peattie writes. "These inherent qualities are favored by the reliable and abundant rainfall and mild climate."
Douglas fir's physical characteristics have made it popular with carpenters and architects, Peattie says, since it "does not warp or pull its nails. Kiln-dried fir makes a beautifully figured, easily finished interior woodwork, both in vertical and flat grain."
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