Grand Fir vs Douglas Fir

Nov 24, 2020
Do you know a grand fir from a Douglas fir? Learn how to tell the difference between the two!

Typically, the end of the year at the Land Trust means our annual Metolius Preserve Tree Hunt. As with many large events in 2020, the Tree Hunt has also been canceled. That doesn't mean we can't learn about the trees of the Metolius Preserve, though! 

Two common trees that can be found at the Metolius Preserve are the grand fir and the Douglas fir. Here is a quick video of how to identify the grand fir from the Douglas fir.



Watch the full video here.


For those who prefer to read about how to identify the grand fir from the Douglas fir, here's a primer:

 



Grand Fir (Abies grandis)

The grand fir is an evergreen true fir. True firs, (Genus Abies) are so named to distinguish them from Douglas firs and a number of other “pretenders.” Medium to large trees, often 150-200’ tall. Trees tend to have narrow shape and rigid upright or horizontal branching.

Needles are about 1” long and highly aromatic. Blunt to the touch. Yellowish-green on top surface, white bands on underside. Needles are two distinct lengths, alternating longer and shorter. Needles are in a flat plane coming off the branch.

Cones
are upright, cylindrical, 3-4”, perched on the topmost branches. Cones of true firs do not fall intact like other conifer cones. In late fall, their scales tumble off one by one when the seeds have ripened.

Bark is smooth and pale gray, becoming thicker on older trees and dividing into thick, flat-topped ridges.

Search for more photos of Grand fir (Abies grandis) on Oregon Flora Project.

 

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
The Douglas Fir (commonly called Doug fir) is the most abundant tree species in Oregon and the conifer with the greatest north-south range (from northern BC to Mexico). The name Douglas fir may be misleading as it is not a true fir, but a member of it’s own genus Pseudotsuga, which means false hemlock.

Needles are single 1/2 - 1 1/2” long generally with white stripe on underside, blunt-tipped (not sharp to the touch). Needles come off the branch in a bottle brush shape.

Cones
are 3-4” long with a paper-thin 3-pointed bract sticking out beneath each woody scale. These bracts have been compared to a three-pronged pitchfork and to the hind feet and tail of a mouse diving into a hole.

Bark of mature trees is dark brown and deeply grooved.

Search for more photos of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) on Oregon Flora Project.

 

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