Douglas-fir

Pseudotsuga menziesiiYears ago I visited friends living just north of San Fransisco. My flight was delayed eight hours or so, so I arrived in Oakland at four in the morning, when there wasn’t much to do but watch dawn rise over the continent… After a short, unsuccessful nap, I was dropped off in Muir Woods National Monument, where I wandered in a glorious haze-daze amid the Coast Redwoods and Douglas-firs. I was practically the only person there on a weekday morning and, boy, was I flying high! Not because I’d taken anything, but because of the lack of sleep, not to mention the invigorating air, and, of course, those crazy trees.img_0854The West’s superlative trees include the tallest—the Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens)—and the biggest, Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). But the “Doug fir” (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is right up there, too, second only to the Coast Redwood in height. They may get a little lost in our (Eastern) minds, though, in the shadow of the fabled “redwoods.”

The trees are named after David Douglas, 1799-1834, the Scottish-born explorer of the Northwest who botanized the region before dying in a freak accident on Hawaii. They are not, however, fir trees, which are in the Abies genus. (That’s why the formal common name has that hypen: Douglas-fir.) Douglas missed out on having his name honored in the scientific or binomial name of the species, which honors Archibald Menzies (1754-1842), another botanizing Scotsman, who sailed with Vancouver. Also, check out that genus: pseudo tsuga, fake hemlocks.

It’s their misfortune to be amazing timber.img_0860I had a chance to visit some more of these mighty trees in Portland. It was a delightful return engagement.dougfThe classic silhouette, but within the woods they look rather different. This, by the way, is made by Clear Creek Distillery in Portland. And it is delightfully odd.

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