Category Archives: Conifer

Lodgepole pine (pinus contorta)

The lodgepole pine (pinus contorta, or shore pine) is a common evergreen conifer in the Pacific Northwest. It is able to grow as a shrub, but the tree variety can reach between 40 and 50 meters in height. It has needles 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, dark and shiny. The female cones it produces are egg-shaped, brown-red and are very resinous and pointed. The male cone needs fire to break open and release its seeds. Fire ecology of the lodgepole pine can be interrupted when excessive fire prevention practices are undergone.



Sitka spruce (picea sitchensis)

The Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) is a coniferous evergreen, typically up to 70 meters tall and two meters in diameter, but can get as high as 100 meters tall. It is the largest spruce, as well as the fifth largest tree in the world, and the third largest conifer. It is immediately characterized by the branches with spirally-arranged needles that are stiff and very sharp. They can get up to three centimeters long, and have two lines of stomata on the upper surface of the needle. The needles themselves are flattened yet four-sided. It produces bright red pollen cones, up to eight centimeters long, with irregular, wavy and thin scales.

Ponderosa pine (pinus ponderosa)

Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa willamettensis) is a type of pine that prefers more inland sites. Also known as the yellow pine, it is characterized by its long needles, grouped into threes ten to twenty centimeters long. Its scaly bark is cinnamon-brown and to some smells like vanilla. Its cones are prominent, usually in groups of threes, shaped like an egg. The scales are thick with triangular, pointed tips arranged in a spiral pattern down the center. It is associated with Douglas-fir in many inner forests of the Pacific coast, as far east as Oklahoma and as south as Texas.


Western redcedar

The Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata [thoo-yah plee-kaata], Pacific redcedar, giant cedar, shinglewood) is a magnificent coniferous evergreen in the cypress family Cupressaceae. It is home in western North America, and can reach up to sixty meters tall. Its branches are like the incense-cedar in that they droop down slightly then bend up. Bark is very unique; red-brown to gray and fibrous. The leaves on the redcedar are scale-like, opposite pairs in four rows. In the two pairs, one pair is folded, the others closely pressed against the stem. Unlike an incense-cedar that grows in symmetry, the needles on the redcedar tend to be to one side. It produces numerous, egg-shaped, red seed cones with eight to twelve scales, and prefers moist, shaded soil.


Incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens)

incensecedarCalocedrus decurrens is a populous tree in the Pacific Northwest, but actually hails from California. One of five trees in the Calocedrus genus, it is a false cedar similar to the Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) distinguishable by six scales on the seed

cones. The flesh of the wood has a slightly sweet smell, and the soft wood is rot- and insect-resistant, making it it preferable for linings of closets and dressers.

The Kalapuya Native Americans utilized the incense-cedar for many different uses, including building and tool construction. One of the taller species in Oregon, its height ranges between 80 and 120 feet. The dusty-footed wood rat, great gray owl, and bald eagle prefer the tree to dwell in, and mule deer help keep the populations down by feasting on the saplings.


  • Needles are arranged in a spray and are flat
  • Green on both sides, needles are scaled and set into each other, forming branches. Nodes about a centimeter apart with yellow buds on ends of needle-branches
  • Groups of needles under six inches long
  • Drought, shade, and temperature tolerant
  • Cones have six layers, look similar to a duck’s bill when closedIncense1

Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

The Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is an outstanding coniferous tree in the Pacific Northwest, and is a representative icon not only of the Cascadian bioregion, but also for Oregon (as the state tree) and i Douglas-fir ts timber production. They can reach as much as 90 meters in height and have a distinctive shape, holding the majority o f its leaves and branches in the upper half of the tree. Indigenous tribes used the tree primarily for firewood, but also as many wooden tools. The pitch was used not only as a caulking substance for canoes, but also as a medicinal salve for skin ailments. The species tends to take over big swaths of land, and can encroach on oak savanna populated by Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana). The indigenous people saw the threat that it posed to the Oregon white oak’s acorn supply, and would frequently set small, controlled fires to get rid of the Douglas-fir, and keep the savanna open. The Douglas-fir is not a true fir, nor is it a hemlock: the name pseudotsuga means false hemlock. The needles are flat and greenish-yellow, about two to three centimeters long, arranged in a spiral pattern on the twig. It has one groove on the top edge and two white lines of stomatae on the underside, with sharp buds. The cones hang down and are scaled, with three-pronged bracts popping up from the overlapping scales.

  • Needles 2-3 cm long, spirally arranged; groove on top of needle, with a pair of white stomata lines underneath
  • Cones hang down and are scaled; three-pronged bracts that emerge look like mice feet
  • Trees can reach 70 meters tall, sometimes as much as 90
  • Bottom half of trunk semi bare; most of foliage and shrubbery on top half of tree
  • Like a range of sites, but prefer moist sites without fireDouglas-fir
  • Tend to invade Oregon white oak savannas. Indigenous tribes like the Kalapuya would set fires to keep the two species separated