The Douglas Fir is one of our most magnificent conifers. A native of the West coast of North America, it was discovered by Archibald Menzies in 1791, and was introduced here by the great David Douglas in 1827.
The Douglas Fir.
He sent back seed to Scotland, to various foresters and estates; one of his brothers was Clerk of Works at Drumlanrig; one of the seeds that he received germinated and was planted, and is now a wonderfully majestic tree, standing not far from the Castle. In North America, it can reach 100m in height; here, it frequently reaches heights of between 50 and 60m; one at the Hermitage, Dunkeld, is 55m in height, and one at Dunkeld Cathedral is 6m in girth. In addition to its commercial use, it makes a fine specimen tree in parks and policies (Photo 2);
with age, the rugged thick stems give an appearance of permanence and solidity. Discovered and introduced by Scotsmen, it grows well in Scotland, and can claim with justification to be Scots by adoption.
The appearance of the bark varies greatly with age. The young bark is grey-green in colour, with resin blisters. At 40 years or so, the bark is purple-brown; by 80 years, it is deeply fissured, thick and predominantly grey. The bark shown in photograph 3 is of a tree around 150 years old. The bark is resistant to fire, to protect the tree from forest fires in its native habitat.
The buds, shown above, are reddish-brown, and pointed. The needles are flat, soft, and rounded at the tip. They are dark green on top, and light-green with two white bands below. When crushed, the needles give off an agreeable resinous scent.
The tree is monoecious; male and female flowers are found on the same tree. Male flowers grow on the underside of the previous year’s shoots near the tip; female flowers are pink upright tufts, growing near the tips of twigs. Female flowers ripen into cones which hang downwards; from each scale on the cone a three-pointed bract, (see photo below), unique to this tree, protrudes.
The timber is strong and durable, with reddish-brown heartwood. It is used for building and structural work; for flooring and cladding, and for furniture and veneers. The photograph below, taken in a recently built house, shows a drying-room, attractively panelled in Douglas Fir.
William Crawford. 260313