Douglas Firs Identification and uses

According to a Californian First Nations’ myth, many mice hid inside the scales of the Douglas fir tree’s cones, which was kind enough to offer sanctuary for them during forest fires. Each of the three-ended bracts of the Douglas fir make the tail and two tiny legs of these lucky mice. As you may already know, Douglas fir trees are not a single species, as there are approximately 50 different species of Douglas firs that thrive throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Many Douglas firs are endemic to North America, and are often used to complement garden landscapes. In the past, Native peoples of North America used Douglas firs both for nourishment and medicinal purposes.

Description/ Identification:
Coniferous, evergreen trees with scaly bark. Needles pointed with 2 sides, do not roll between fingers, because they are flat Spreading or drooping branches. Douglas-fir can reach heights of 120 metres (394 ft). Douglas Firs are most closely related to cedars. They are fragrant coniferous trees with whirled branches, and thin, smooth young bark, with bulging resin blisters. They have characteristic slender, tightly wrapped pine cones (5-25cm, 2-10in. long).

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Food Uses:
Dried inner bark can be ground into a nutritious meal during times of lack of food. The small seeds were also eaten. Sometimes on hot, sunny days, when photosynthesis and root pressure are high, and transpiration is slow, crystals of sugar form at the tips of needles and around branches. This rare treat was occasionally eaten raw or collected for future use in sweetening foods.

Medicinal uses:
Dried sap of the Douglas firs was used to cure cold symptoms, and sticky buds were chewed to relieve mouth sores. Young Douglas fir needles are very high in Vitamin C and were used to treat scurvy.

Other Uses:
Douglas fir bark was used to make canoes. Lumps of hardened sap were chewed on to keep boredom away and to whiten teeth. Roots were corded to stitching canoes and baskets and to make fishing nets. Douglas-fir is used for structural applications where high load resistance is needed, take, for example, home built aircraft. Douglas-fir is the most common Christmas trees in the United States, selling in higher volumes than even the true firs. Douglas-fir Christmas trees are usually trimmed to a near perfect cone prior to sale.

Fir resin can cause skin irritations and reactions in some people. Evergreen teas and fir needles should be taken in moderation.