Category Archives: Large Trees

Red Alder

Red alder (Alnus rubra)
Alnus rubra

Red alder is a fast-growing deciduous tree well suited for disturbed and infertile soils, and an excellent nitrogen fixing plant. Generally grows to a height of 40-50 feet, sometimes reaching up to 80 feet. Red Alder flowers in March with hanging, cylindrical reddish-orange catkins. Leaves turn a slight golden color in the autumn.

In the open, red alders grow into a broadly conical shape with spreading branches. It is an excellent wildlife tree that provides cavity-nesting opportunities and forage for a wide range of songbirds. It also serves as a host plant for swallowtail butterfly larvae.

Best in sun to part shade with moist soils.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 40-50ft
  • Mature Width: 40-50ft

Madrone

Madrone (Arbutus menziesi)
Arbutus menziesii

Madrone is an attractive, broad-leaved evergreen tree with a twisting trunk that develops beautiful reddish-brown exfoliating bark with age. Mature size ranges from 20 to 65 feet tall and wide. Madrone does best in full sun and grows well on hillsides with dry, well-drained or rocky soils. Leaves are dark, shiny green and shed irregularly throughout the year.

Flowers are small, pinkish, and bell-shaped, arranged in drooping clusters. Flowers appear in April, followed by small round orange-red berries. Madrone’s fruit is eaten by a wide range of birds and its flowers attract numerous pollinators. They reach their full aesthetic potential when planted in a grove. Madrones can be difficult to establish, so plant small seedlings and be patient.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun
  • Water Requirements: Dry
  • Ease of Growing: Hard to grow
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 20-65ft
  • Mature Width: 20-65ft

Paper Birch

Betula papyrifera

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) is a medium to fast growing deciduous tree, reaching a mature height of 50-70 feet. The leaves are simple, alternate, to 4 inches long, toothed and roughly egg-shaped, coming to a pointed tip. The leaves turn bright yellow in the autumn. Flowers are male and female catkins to 1½ inches, blooming in the spring.

Paper birch is a widespread North American species; on the West Coast, the birch is considered native from eastern Oregon to Alaska. Paper birch is known for its distinctive bark, which is whiter than many birches and peels in papery strips. The bark of the birch was used for canoe-making across the United States outside of the Pacific Northwest (in the Pacific Northwest, Western redcedar is more commonly used). Traditional uses for birch resin include medicine, adhesive, and chewing gum. Today birch is a commonly used for pulp wood and as an ornamental tree.

Because all birches attract aphids and their “honeydew,” the tree is not recommended for patios or parking areas.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate, Fast
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals, Pollinators
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 50-70ft
  • Mature Width: 15-25ft

Grand Fir

Grand fir (Abies grandis)
Abies grandis

Grand fir or giant fir is native to the Pacific Northwest of North America, occurring at altitudes of sea level to 1,800 m. It is a large, evergreen, coniferous tree growing to 40-70 m (exceptionally 80 m) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 2 m.

The glossy dark green leaves are needle-like and 3-6 cm long. They lie in two more-or-less flat ranks on either side of the shoot. The cones are 6-12 cm long and 3.5-4.5 cm broad. The cones do not fall to the ground whole, but disintegrate on the tree and release their seeds at maturity, about 6 months after pollination.

Uses

The foliage has an attractive scent, and is sometimes used for Christmas decoration, including Christmas trees. It is also planted as an ornamental tree in large parks.

  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 200ft
  • Mature Width: 40ft

Noble Fir

Noble fir (Abies procera)
Abies procera

Noble fir (Abies procera) is native to the Cascade Range and Coast Range mountains of northwest California, western Oregon and western Washington.

It is a large evergreen tree typically up to 40-70 m tall and 2 m trunk diameter (rarely to 89 m tall and 2.7 m diameter), with a narrow conic crown. The bark on young trees is smooth, grey, and with resin blisters, becoming red-brown, rough and fissured on old trees. The glaucous blue-green needle-like leaves are 1-3.5 cm long. They are arranged spirally on the shoot, but twisted slightly to curve up above the shoot. The cones are erect, 11-22 cm long; they do not fall to the ground intact, but instead ripen and disintegrate to release winged seeds in fall.

It is a high altitude tree, typically occurring at 300-1,500 m altitude, only rarely reaching tree line.

Uses

Noble Fir is a popular Christmas tree. The wood is used for general structural purposes and paper manufacture.

  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 250ft
  • Mature Width: 30ft

Bigleaf Maple

Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)
Acer macrophyllum

Acer macrophyllum (Bigleaf or Oregon Maple) is a large deciduous tree. It grows to 35 m tall, but more commonly 15 m to 20 m tall. It is native to western North America, mostly near the Pacific coast, from southernmost Alaska south to southern California. Some stands are also found inland in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California, and a tiny population occurs in central Idaho.

It has the largest leaves of any maple, typically 15-30 cm across, with five deeply-incised palmate lobes, with the largest running to 61 cm. The flowers are produced in spring in pendulous racemes 10-15 cm long, greenish-yellow with inconspicuous petals. The fruit is a paired winged samara, each seed 1-1.5 cm diameter with a 4-5 cm wing.

In the more humid parts of its range, as in the Olympic National Park, its bark is covered with epiphytic moss and fern species.

Cultivation and Uses

Maple syrup has been made from the sap of bigleaf maple trees. While the sugar concentration is about the same as in sugar maple (Acer saccharum), the flavor is somewhat different. Interest in commercially producing syrup from bigleaf maple sap has been limited.

The lumber from this tree has diverse uses, such as furniture, piano frames and salad bowls. Highly figured wood is not uncommon and is used for veneer and guitar bodies.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 90ft
  • Mature Width: 70ft
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