Tree Species

There are many different types of trees around the world.  Some are very common and live in many different habitats.  Below are four of the more widespread hardwoods and conifers of western Washington and Oregon with a little bit of information and pictures.

Let’s start with maples.  There are many varieties of maples in the world.  Three species are native to the Pacific Northwest.  These include the bigleaf maple, the Douglas maple and the vine maple. There are also red, silver and black maples, as well as sugar maples that give us maple syrup and Japanese maples that have small delicate leaves and are usually used for landscaping.  The seeds of all maples are similar.  They grow in pairs, and since the seeds travel through air, each seed is attached to a wing.  When they ripen, the two seeds separate and gradually fall to the ground spinning like a helicopter’s propellers. Below are a few pictures.

Maple seeds
Bigleaf Maple leaves usually turn yellow in fall
Vine Maples turn stunning colors in the fall  
Douglas Maple leaves

Oak trees also grow in many places all over the world.  Just like the maple, there are many different kinds of oaks.  The Oregon white oak is native to the whole western coast of the United States so most of them that you see in the Pacific Northwest are not foreign intruders.  The other oak species live in other places throughout the world.  The seeds of all oak species are acorns.  Squirrels are helpful to the oak trees because they gather up the acorns and bury them in preparation for winter.  Most of the acorns are forgotten and some grow into trees.

Oregon white oak leaves and acorns:
A leaf and ripe acorn:

  Close up of two unripe acorns and white oak leaves:

Douglas-fir trees are native to and very widespread in the Pacific Northwest.  They are coniferous evergreen trees that can grow to be well over a hundred feet tall, with the tallest being 326 feet tall.  Their short needles usually grow just over an inch long.  One of the major identification tools for the Douglas-fir is their cones.  Only these trees’ cones’ scales have a three “fingered” tip.  Their very small and lightweight seeds grow together in cones that are about two to five inches long.  When the cone ripens, the seeds fall out of the cones and fly along the air, eventually falling to the ground.

Douglas-fir branch up-close
An already opened Douglas-fir cone  
A few Douglas-fir trees
An unripe Douglas-fir cone

Another important coniferous tree is the western redcedar.  It can grow to be taller than a hundred and fifty feet with the tallest being 234 feet tall.  It has unique needles that are pretty floppy.  The cones are very small (about a half inch) and they grow in small bunches of about three or four.  The western redcedar thrives especially in wetter areas near the coast.  The Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest used these trees a lot to build many of their every-day objects.  When the tree was cut down, every part of it was used.  Baskets, clothes and such were made out of the smaller branches and roots, while the soft trunk was often carved into a canoe.

A redcedar branch with ripe/unripe cones 
Close-up of a ripe redcedar cone
Shows the attachment of the branches
A wild, old redcedar

Do you want to know more?  Click here for some cool tree facts!!

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