This wide ranging species grows from 70 to 250 feet tall. The branches are spreading to drooping, the buds sharply pointed
and the bark is very thick, fluted, ridged, rough and dark brown.
The needles are dark green or blue green, 1 to 1 1/2 inches long,soft to the touch and radiate out in all directions from the branch. They have a sweet fragrance when crushed.
Pollen strobili are small and reddish-brown. Young cones are small, oval shaped and hang downward. They are reddish-brown to gray, 3″ long and do not dissipate to spread seed as do true firs (Abies sp.). The cones open in the late summer to disperse the seeds and will continue to hang on the trees through the fall.
Under natural conditions, Douglas-fir has established 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.
An interior strain from the Rocky Mountains (P. menziesiivar. glauca) has been extensively planted throughout several midwestern state Christmas tree plantations. It is preferred because of its ability to withstand the more harsh growing conditions than the Pacific Northwest seed sources.
Nationally, it remains one of the most popular Christmas trees species. It is shipped to the majority of the states and is also exported to the Hawaiian Islands, Guam and some Asian markets.
Plantation trees are normally sheared and will produce a crop within 7 to over 10 years depending upon the site and growing area.
Douglas-fir is one of the stronger of the softwoods and is widely used for structural purposes. The sapwood is white to pale yellow while the heartwood is orange-red with high contrast between earlywood and latewood.
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.