Cone Bearing Evergreens - Douglas Spruce
( Originally Published 1927 )
The Douglas spruce (Pseudotsuga mucronata, Sudw.), ranks with the giant arbor-vitaes, firs, and sequoias in the forests of the Pacific Coast. Thousands of square miles of pure forest of this species occur in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Here the trees stand even, like wheat in a grain field, the tallest reach four hundred feet, the redwood its only rival. Nowhere but in the redwood forests is there such a heavy stand of timber on this. continent. No forest tree except sequoias equals the Douglas spruce in massiveness of trunk and yield of straight-grained lumber.
The genus pseudotsuga stands botanically in a position intermediate between firs and hemlocks. Our tree giant is as often called the Douglas fir as Douglas spruce. The lumberman sells the output of his mills under the trade name, "Oregon pine." This is perhaps the best known lumber in all the Western country. It has a great reputation abroad, where timbers of the largest size are used for masts, spars, piles for wharves and bridges, and for whatever uses heavy timbers are needed. The wood is stronger in proportion to its weight than that of any other large conifer in the country. It is tough, durable, and elastic. Its only faults are its extreme hardness and liability to warp when cut into boards. These faults are noted only by carpenters who use the wood for interior finish of houses. "Red pine" it is called in regions of the Great Basin, where the trees grow smaller than on the Coast, and are put to general lumber purposes. It is variable in quality, but always pale yellow, striped with red, and handsomely wavy when quarter-sawed; distractingly so in the "slash grain," oftenest seen in the interior finish of the typical California bungalow.
The living tree is a superb, broad-based pyramid, bearing a load of crowded drooping branches, where it has a chance to assume its normal habit. A delicate lace-like drooping spray of yellowish or bluish green leaves, flat, spreading at right angles from the twig, gives the Douglas spruce its hale, abundant vigor. The dark red staminate flowers glow in late winter against the yellow foliage mass of the new leaves; but even the flowers are not so showy as the drooping cones, two to four inches long, their plain scales adorned with bracts, notched and bearing a whip that extends half an inch beyond the scales. Blue-green, shading to purple, with red-lipped scales and bright green bracts, these cones are truly the handsomest ornaments worn by any tree.
Finally, this paragon of conifers surprises Eastern nurserymen by outstripping other seedlings in vigor and quickness of growth. Rocky Mountain seed does best. The Oregon trees furnish seed to European nurseries and seedlings from Europe grow quickly into superb ornamental trees.