CORVALLIS, Ore. — The Pacific Northwest’s iconic Douglas-fir tree rivals coast redwood for honors as the world’s tallest tree. It isn’t a true fir – the species that was named for Scottish botanist David Douglas is, however, the mostly widely distributed North American conifer.
And it is a marvel of water engineering. From root to top, a mature tree transmits water across more than 22,000 cell walls, each equipped with 50 to 60 elegantly designed valves.
In recognition of this commercially important tree, the Forest Research Laboratory at Oregon State University has published “Douglas-fir: The Genus Pseudotsuga,” which details more than a century of research. It covers what is known about the species’ evolutionary history, genetics, environmental requirements and breeding programs in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North America.
Douglas-fir is native to western North America but has been accepted in forest management programs around the world. It is a member of the genus Pseudotsuga, which includes up to a dozen species in Asia and North America. In Europe, Douglas-fir is the most commonly planted North American tree.
Two OSU forest scientists, Denis Lavender and Richard Hermann, wrote “Douglas-fir.” Both received Ph.Ds. from Oregon State in botany and went on to conduct research on the species through the OSU Forest Research Lab until they retired.
“When Denis and I were at the Forest Research Lab, we received questions about Douglas-fir from around the world,” said Hermann. “So we decided to collect everything we could find and write a book.”
A native of Germany, Hermann specialized in Douglas-fir management in plantations and natural regeneration. In addition to his work at Oregon State, he held research appointments in Poland, France, Germany and Italy and served in leadership positions with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations.
Lavender, who died last spring, focused on reproductive biochemistry and the role of dormancy in tree vitality. After leaving Oregon State in 1984, he served as the head of the Forest Science Department at the University of British Columbia and helped to establish the Silvicultural Institute of British Columbia. His method for storing and planting seedlings increased the survival rate of conifers by 20 percent.
“Douglas-fir” is available free online at http://hdl.handle.net/1957/47168 or in print for $45 ($60 for international orders) from the communications office in the OSU College of Forestry, firstname.lastname@example.org.