The tallest Douglas in Germany

grows in the Black Forest

Die Geschichte der Douglasie

The History of Douglas

There is much to tell about Douglas wood. Let's start at the very beginning:

Native to Europe before the Ice Age

The genus of Douglas grew before the last Ice Age in central Europe. Through prehistoric remains and pollen analyses, occurrences of the genus "Pseudotsuga" were identified 750,000 years ago in Europe, but not the "Pseudotsuga menziesii." It was used for over 100 years in central Europe, both systematically and successfully in sustainable forestry.

(Re-) Introduction to Europe in the 18th Century

In 1792, (Green) Douglas was discovered by a Scottish ship doctor and botanist »Archibald Menzies« on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The discovery of »Coastal Douglas« was also mentioned as a subspecies during mapping work of the British navy. Domestic appearances of Douglas, which also represent a subspecies, were unknown at that time. This natural mix of appearances of subspecies was interesting to those from a scientific perspective.

In 1795, with the return to England, came the first dried plant parts of Douglas to Europe - but still no seed. The branches were brought to England by the British botanist Lambert in 1803 and were first described systematically. Hermann (1981) reported from the tree species descriptions, which over the course of two centuries resulted in various names of Green Douglas and its difference from other subspecies (Grey or Blue Douglas).

In addition to the systematic classification, scientists in the area of origin have engaged themselves in figuring out the regional differentiation of Green, Grey and Blue Douglas up to today (Frothingham 1909; Schenck 1939; Zavarin & Snajberk 1973, 1975, Hermann 1981, Li 1986, Klumpp 1999).

Scottish natural scientist David Douglas was the name giver

The German name »Douglasie« is derived from the Scottish natural scientist »David Douglas«, who in 1828 sent the first seeds to Scotland and England. Other well-known authors in this field (including Konnert et al. 2008) date the arrival of the first Douglas seeds in Europe to 1827. In general, however, there is little clarity over the exact locations of the oldest collection of Douglas seed deliveries to Europe.

The origin of the first shipment of Douglas seeds refers back to Isaac (1964) through his diary entries and the archives of the Hudson's Bay Company, which indicate a »probability that the plains outside of Vancouver (Washington)« is where the seed harvest was performed. Note: This is in America, on the Columbia River across from Portland, a town in Washington State. Not to be confused with the Vancouver (British Columbia).

Later works of John Cornelius Booth (1882, 1903) disclose an arrival in Europe in 1827. At the same time, it is pointed out that Douglas may have only been released after the end of the second expedition in 1829 was successfully established in Europe.

It seems that the exact details of the first arrival of Douglas seeds in Europe are debatable. What is certain, however, is that around 1830 Douglas seeds native to North America reached Europe. Since then, they have been planted with very different regional focus and success, initially in forest nurseries (arboretum) and later in forests.

The first Douglas in Germany

In 1831, Germany obtained the first Douglas plants. In this context, it is worth mentioning the activities of the John (Richmond) Booth & Sons nursery in Flottbek, Hamburg. By family ties to Scotland, they received Douglas seeds from the first deposit. Since the middle of the 19th century, the nursery delivered Douglas seeds to the former Prussian territory predominantly for cultivation (Schwappach 1901). The former Prussian territory ranges geographically from present-day Rhineland-Palatinate to present-day Poland. It was also delivered to cultivation areas in Baden (Wimmer 1909).

At the time, the Douglas seedlings were grown in nearby cropland nurseries or hiking camps in the forest districts (including Pretzsch & Spellman, 1994). This procedure was a local custom. It had proven itself in the face of large transport distances, limited cargo capacities and rarely predictable delivery times. Compare this to a standard in today's central nursery cultivation and timely delivery of forest plants. Remains of the former cultivation areas still form the active supply of the oldest Douglas appearances in Germany.

In contrast to spruce, which was mentioned, for example in Hunsrück and Eifel’s »Prussia tree«, a similar, locally established name for Douglas is not to be found in literature. However, the species has been widely called, not only by regional laymen, »Douglas fir, Douglas spruce and Douglas pine« even though Douglas is not a fir, spruce or pine species. The reason for this may be the synonymous names used in older literature (for example, Booth 1877, Holland 1919). The names emphasize a simplified perspective and a recognizable systematic relationship, which refer to indigenous conifers or the regionally typical English suffix »fir [»conifer«]«.

Douglas in the Black Forest

In the Black Forest there are large deposits of ancient Douglas trees. Ruthard Männle, founder of pur natur, worked for over 15 years with Douglas wood and knows that the best supply is not only in the Black Forest, but in many other parts of Germany as well.

Advantages of Douglas

  • Douglas trees that grow in the correct stand are extremely straight and can have a very large diameter. Thus, Douglas is ideally suited for the production of long and wide Douglas solid wood floorboards.
  • Because of its natural resistance to insects and fungi, Douglas terrace floorboards are ideal for outdoor wood terraces and sidings.
  • Made of high quality, Douglas tree trunks can be cut for furniture production veneers or sawn veneers, as well as manufactured for the top layers of high quality 3-layer floorboards (also known as parquet floorboards).
  • Since Douglas is especially durable against storms and drought, it is used by forest owners as a significant source of income.

Characteristics of Douglas

Scientific Name

Pseudotsuga menziesii

German Name

Douglasie

Common Names

(scientifically incorrect) 

Douglas fir

Douglas spruce

Douglas pine

Family

Pine

(Pinaceae)

Genus

Pseudotsuga

Species

menziesii

Origin

North America

Height

up to 65m (213ft) - highest Douglas in Germanystands over 63m tall in the Black Forest in Freiburg.

Resistance to Frost

–16°C to –24°C3 (.2°F to -11.2°F)

Value of Wood

1,2,3

Gender

unisex

Monoicous/Diocious

monoecious

Pollination

Cross-pollination

Wind-pollination

Leaf classifcation

individual

Leaf structure / form

acicular, triangular

Leaf edge

smoothly edged

1-acicular

Build

Crown in youth, narrowly conical (similar to spruce), varied and more irregular with age, often flattened or rounded, maximum height and maximum BHD depending on variety, with Green Douglas (Pseudotsuga menziesii var menziesii) up to 80m, max. 100m (262ft, max. 328ft) in height and BHD to 220cm, max. 490cm ( 7.2ft (max. 16ft), lower with Blue Douglas (Pseudotsuga menziesii var.glauca).

Bark

First, thin and silver grey, with numerous resin blisters; cork abundent scale bark, long formation, grey to reddish brown, very thick with age.

Needles

1.5 to 4cm (0.6” to 1.6”) long, flat, bottom side with two silver grey Stomata stripes; when crushed have a pleasantly fruity orange smell; needle base is a short, oblique from the stem axis distant handle; position more or less parted

Cones

4 to 11cm  (1.6” to 4.3”) long, brown, stemmed; three-pointed visible scales, adjacent depending on the variety (coastal Green Douglas = Pseudotsuga menziesii var menziesii) or distant (domestic or Blue Douglas = Pseudotsuga menziesii var glauca)

References

The information gathered on this site is based from the following sources:

  • Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut 2011. Zum Douglasien-Anbau in Deutschland, Sonderheft Ausgabe 344, Braunschweig.
  • Aas, G. 2008. Die Douglasie (Pseudotsuga menziesii) in Nordamerika. Verbreitung, Variabilität und Ökologie. In: Schmidt, O. (verantw.). Die Douglasie - Perspektiven im Klimawandel. LWF Wissen 59. Berichte aus der Bayerischen Landesanstalt für Wald und Forstwirtschaft, 7-11
  • CMA 1998. Informationsdienst Holz 5. Douglasie. Holzabsatzfonds (Hrsg.), Bonn
  • Hermann, R. K. 1981. Die Gattung Pseudotsuga - Ein Abriß ihrer Systematik, Geschichte und heutigen Verbreitung. Forstarchiv 52 (6), 204-212
  • Isaac, L. A. 1964. Waldbau und Ökologie der Douglasie (nach einem Vortrag gehalten 1959 an der Forstschule der Universität des Staates Oregon in Corvallis). In: Eisele, K. (Hrsg.). Die Douglasie. Festschrift zum 175-jährigen Firmenjubiläum. Selbstverlag Conrad Appel, Darmstadt, 7-14
  • Pretzsch, H.; Spellmann, H. 1994. Leistung und Struktur des Douglasien-Durchforstungsversuchs Lonau 135. Waldwachstumskundliche Ergebnisse nach fast 90jähriger Beobachtung. Forst und Holz 49 (3), 64-69
  • Spellmann, H.; Nagel, J. 1989. Zum Einfluß von Ausgangspflanzenzahl und Pflanzverband und die Jugendentwicklung von Douglasienbeständen. Forst und Holz 44 (17), 455-459
  • Wimmer, E. 1909. Anbauversuche mit fremdländischen Holzarten in den Waldungen des Großherzogtums Baden. Verlagsbuchhandlung Paul Parey, Berlin, 1-86
  • Portal Baumkunde, http://www.baumkunde.de/Pseudotsuga_menziesii/
  • Fachwissen von Ruthard Männle, Holztechniker (HTR) und Spezialist für Douglasie in Deutschland.