Pine trees are a staple in the American landscape as well as a key source of lumber in construction projects. Pine trees provide habitats and food for local wildlife. Pine trees grow anywhere from mountaintops to swamps. The diversity among species is beneficial, providing options and choices to consumers and gardeners. However, it introduces confusion when sorting through trees such as southern yellow pines and Douglas firs.
Douglas Fir Tree Characteristics
The Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is a perennial in the pine (Pinaceae) family. It is related to the bigcone Douglas fir. Douglas firs typically grow to heights between 80 and 200 feet. Although rare, some specimens reach nearly 300 feet. Needles range from 3/4 to 1 inch long with widths of approximately 1/16 inch. The needles persist up to 8 years and are scattered singly over the twigs. Douglas fir bark starts life with a dark gray-brown color with resin blisters. The bark turns a reddish-brown and grows thicker with age. Deep and irregular shaped fissures divide the bark.
Southern Yellow Pine Tree Characteristics
Southern yellow pine is a commercial marketing term promoted by the lumber and construction industries for three different species of pine. Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), loblolly pine (P. taeda) and slash pine (P. elliottii). Southern yellow pines reach heights between 80 and 115 feet. Needle lengths vary widely among the three species. Longleaf needles average 8 to 18 inches long. Loblolly pine needle are shorter, averaging 6 to 9 inches. Slash pines needles are 5 to 11 inches long. The bark on the mature trees favors a reddish-brown color with a scaly texture.
Collectively, Southern yellow pines are hard, dense and possess an excellent strength-to weight ratio, according to the Wood Database. Douglas fir is also strong for its weight. The bark on Southern yellow pine and Douglas fir changes color abruptly as the trees transition out of their early growth stages. Douglas firs and Southern yellow pines are popular timber in construction. Newly harvested lumber is moderately priced and available to large segments of the consumer market.
Douglas firs are large and yield significant amounts of lumber per tree. Southern yellow pines on average are 100 feet shorter than Douglas firs. The primary region for Douglas firs is the Western portion of North America, while Southern yellow pines populate the Southern regions of the United States, principally in the Southeast.
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