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Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come. - Chinese proverb

We have nothing to fear and a great deal to learn from trees, that vigorous and pacific tribe which without stint produces strengthening essences for us, soothing balms, and in whose gracious company we spend so many cool, silent and intimate hours. - Marcel Proust, Pleasures and Regrets, 1896

Douglas Fir Tree Description:
Large to very large tree with narrow, pointed crown of slightly drooping branches, the crown becoming flattened with age in large specimens. There are two distinct geographic varieties: Coast and Rocky Mountain. Height: 25-60m, Coast variety to 90 or 100m in perfect conditions Diameter: 0.6-1.5m, Coast variety up to 4.4m in ideal situations Needles: evergreen; spreading mostly in two rows; 2-3cm long. Flattened, mostly rounded at the tip,flexible; dark yellow-green or blue-green; very short, twisted leafstalks. Bark: reddish-brown, very thick, deeply furrowed into broad ridges, often corky. Twigs: orange, turning brown; slender, hairy, ending in dark red conical, pointed, scaly, hairless bud. Cones: pollen cones yellow-red. Seed cones 6-10cm long; narrowly egg-shaped, light brown,short-stalked; with many thin, rounded cone-scales each above a long, protruding, three-pointed bract; paired seeds 5-6mm long with wings longer than the body. http://www.pennine.demon.co.uk/Arboretum/Psme.htm

Images of Douglas Fir
beautiful images of different parts of tree

Edible Uses
Young shoot tips - used as a flavouring in cooked foods[15, 177]. A subtle woodsy flavour[183]. A refreshing tea is made from the young leaves and twigs[14, 46, 177, 257]. Rich in vitamin C[183]. It is used as a coffee substitute according to some reports[92, 95, 161, 257]. The fresh leaves have a pleasant balsamic odour and are used as a coffee substitute[213]. Inner bark - dried, ground into a meal and mixed with cereals for making bread etc[161, 213]. A famine food used when all elsefails[177]. A sweet manna-like substance is exuded from the bark[177, 183]. This report possibly refers to the resin that is obtained from the trunk[K], and is used as a chewing gum by various native North American Indian tribes[226]. Alternatively, the report could be referring to the sap which is used as a sugar-like food[257].

Other Uses
Basketry; Cork; Dye; Fertilizer; Fuel; Insecticide; Resin; Shelterbelt; Tannin; Wood.
A light brown dye is obtained from the bark[118, 257]. The bark is a source of tannins[46, 82]. The bark can be used as a cork substitute[171] and is also used to make fertilizer[226]. The bark contains pitch, it burns with a lot of heat and almost no smoke, so it is prized as a fuel[226, 257]. The small roots have been used to make baskets[257]. The plant has insecticidal properties[171]. A resin is obtained from the trunk, similar to Abies balsamea[61, 64] which is used in the manufacture of glues, candles, as a cement for microscopes and slides and also as a fixative in soaps and perfumery[171]. The resin can also be used as a caulking material on boats[257]. A fast growing and fairly wind-resistant tree, it is often used in shelterbelt plantings[185]. Wood - heavy, strong, fine grained, durable, though it can be of variable quality. It dries quickly, does not warp and is easily worked, it is used for heavy construction, telegraph poles, furniture etc[21, 46, 61, 82, 99, 171, 200, 226]. It is also used as a good quality fuel[46, 99, 257].
http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Pseudotsuga+menziesii http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/eesc/environmental/programs/culres/ethbot/m-p/Pseudotsuga.htm
more ethnobotanical information
Douglas Fir/Pseudotsuga menziesii Essential(EcoCert Organic) France
physical description: clear to pale yellow liquid olfactory description: soft, rich sweet resinous/balsamic/woody note which melds into a cool green resinous bouquet heart note. Fresh terpenic/herbaceous notes manifest their presence with the resinous bouquet. A quiet fruity balsamic bouquet appears in the base note phase and is on the blotter for many
hours sample-

Simple GC of Organic Douglas Fir Essential Oil

alpha pinene 10.40%
Odor Description : Fresh Sweet Pine Earthy Woody
camphene 0.60%
Odor Description : Fresh Herbal Woody Camphor Mint
beta pinene 27.85% Odor Description : Sweet Fresh Pine Woody Hay Green
sabinene 12.85%
warm peppery,mild woody odor.
delta-3-darene 12.85
limonene 3.45%
Odor Description : Lemon Citrus Citral Fresh Sweet
gamma terpinene 3.50%
Odor Description : Oily Woody Terpy Lemon/lime Tropical Herbal
terpinolene 11.50%
Odor Description : Fresh Woody Sweet Pine Citrus
citronnellol 1.00%
Odor Description : Sweet Rose Leather Musty Floral
terpinene-4-ol 4.85%
Odor Description : Pepper Woody Earth Musty Sweet
borneol 0.10%
Odor Description : Pine Woody Camphor
citronellyl acetate 3.00%
Odor Description : Floral Green Sweet Fruity Citrus With Woody Tropical Fruit Nuances
geranyl acetate 1.15%
Odor Description : Sweet Fruit Rose Lavender Fresh Green Fatty Terpene
beta caryophyllene 0.17%
Odor Description : Sweet Woody Spice Clove Dry
germacrene D 0.40%

The following selection from the writings of John Muir contains an incredible depiction of his experience of "riding" a Douglas Fir(He names it as Douglas Spruce but it refers to the same plant) during a storm. It is rather long but a complete delight to read. This excerpt also contains in the last paragraph a beautiful description of fragrance in the forest.

"Toward midday, after a long, tingling scramble through copses of hazel and ceanothus, I gained the summit of the highest ridge in the neighborhood; and then it occurred to me that it would be a fine thing to climb one of the trees to obtain a wider outlook and get my ear close to the ®olian music of its topmost needles. But under the circumstances the choice of a tree was a serious matter. One whose instep was not very strong seemed in danger of being blown down, or of being struck by others in case they should fall; another was branchless to a considerable height above the ground, and at the same time too large to be grasped with arms and legs in climbing; while others were not favorably situated for clear views. After cautiously casting about, I made choice of the tallest of a group of Douglas Spruces that were growing close together like a tuft of grass, no one of which seemed likely to fall unless all the rest fell with it. Though comparatively young, they were about 100 feet high, and their lithe, brushy tops were rocking and swirling in wild ecstasy. Being accustomed to climb trees in making botanical studies, I experienced no difficulty in reaching the top of this one, and never before did I enjoy so noble an exhilaration of motion. The slender tops fairly flapped and swished in the passionate torrent, bending and swirling backward and forward, round and round, tracing indescribable combinations of vertical and horizontal curves, while I clung with muscles firm braced, like abobo-link on a reed.

In its widest sweeps my tree-top described an arc of from twenty to thirty degrees, but I felt sure of its elastic temper, having seen others of the same species still more severely tried--bent almost to the ground indeed, in heavy snows--without breaking a fiber. I was therefore safe, and free to take the wind into my pulses and enjoy the excited forest from my superb outlook. The view from here must be extremely beautiful in any weather. Now my eye roved over the piny hills and dales as over fields of waving grain, and felt the light running in ripples and broad swelling undulations across the valleys from ridge to ridge, as the shining foliage was stirred by corresponding waves of air. Oftentimes these waves of reflected light would break up suddenly into a kind of beaten foam, and again, after chasing one another in regular order, they would seem to bend forward in concentric curves, and disappear on some hillside, like sea-waves on a shelving shore. The quantity of light reflected from the bent needles was so great as to make whole groves appear as if covered with snow, while the black shadows beneath the trees greatly enhanced the effect of the silvery splendor.

Excepting only the shadows there was nothing somber in all this wild sea of pines. On the contrary, notwithstanding this was the winter season, the colors were remarkably beautiful. The shafts of the pine and libocedrus were brown and purple, and most of the foliage was well tinged with yellow; the laurel groves, with the pale undersides of their leaves turned upward, made masses of gray; and then there was many a dash of chocolate color from clumps of manzanita, and jet of vivid crimson from the bark of the madro–os, while the ground on the hillsides, appearing here and there through openings between the groves, displayed masses of pale purple and brown.

The sounds of the storm corresponded gloriously with this wild exuberance of light and motion. The profound bass of the naked branches and boles booming like waterfalls; the quick, tense vibrations of the pine-needles, now rising to a shrill, whistling hiss, now falling to a silky murmur; the rustling of laurel groves in the dells, and the keen metallic click of leaf on leaf--all this was heard in easy analysis when the attention was calmly bent.

The varied gestures of the multitude were seen to fine advantage, so that one could recognize the different species at a distance of several miles by this means alone, as well as by their forms and colors, and the way they reflected the light. All seemed strong and comfortable, as if really enjoying the storm, while responding to its most enthusiastic greetings. We hear much nowadays concerning the universal struggle for existence, but no struggle in the common meaning of the word was manifest here; no recognition of danger by any tree; no deprecation; but rather an invincible gladness as remote from exultation as from fear.

I kept my lofty perch for hours, frequently closing my eyes to enjoy the music by itself, or to feast quietly on the delicious fragrance that was streaming past. The fragrance of the woods was less marked than that produced during warm rain, when so many balsamic buds and leaves are steeped like tea; but, from the chafing of resiny branches against each other, and the incessant attrition of myriads of needles, the gale was spiced to a very tonic degree. And besides the fragrance from these local sources there were traces of scents brought from afar. For this wind came first from the sea, rubbing against its fresh, briny waves, then distilled through the redwoods, threading rich ferny gulches, and spreading itself in broad undulating currents overmany a flower-enameled ridge of the coast mountains, then across the golden plains, up the purple foot-hills, and into these piny woods with the varied incense gathered by the way."-John Muir
http://www.jps.net/prichins/w-storm.htm http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/news/lifestyles/html98/pfir_20000319.html great article on Douglas Fir