At one time Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menzieisii) was the most important lumber-producing tree in the United States. Under natural conditions, Douglas-fir has established itself primarily after fires on wetter sites. The trees can live for a thousand years, largely due to a very thick bark that allows them to survive moderate fires. Thus many ancient old-growth forests contain large Douglas-fir that represent the legacy of fires that occurred many centuries ago.
It is probably most familiar to homeowners indoors as a Christmas tree. However, it is also an excellent ornamental evergreen for outdoors in residential yards. These trees are called conifers, because they bear cones. They are native to the Rocky Mountains where they grow in handsome stands as far as the Pacific Coast and support a substantial timber industry. Ornamental types of Douglas fir suitable for home landscapes feature stately pyramidal form, strong needles and attractive color. This tree is relatively tolerant of common air pollutants.
The Douglas-fir has been the major Christmas tree species used in the Pacific Northwest since the 1920's. During the following 40 years, nearly all trees were harvested from forest lands. Since the 1950's, the transformation from growing trees in the wild to culturing them on plantations has been dramatic. Today, few trees come from forest lands.
Douglas-fir is one of the stronger of the softwoods and is widely used for structural purposes. It is straight grained and moderately hard. It is used widely in construction, laminated timbers, plywood and high grade veneer, interior trim, cabinet work, pallets, boxes, ladders and flooring.