Brief SummaryRead full entry
Philip M. McDonald
Distinct in appearance and conspicuous among its usually shorter associates, bigcone Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa) provides contrast and variability to the southern California landscape. The wood of the species, although suitable for coarse lumber, is scarcely utilized because the trees are scattered and are more valuable for esthetics and watershed protection.
Because the taxonomic characteristics of bigcone Douglas-fir are similar to those of its northern "cousin," Douglas-fir, it was at least twice assigned to the genus Abies. Commonly, the species has been called hemlock, false hemlock, and desert fir. Colloquially, it is often referred to as bigcone-spruce, probably because its drooping lower branches, stiff needles, and upright cones remind the observer of the spruce tree. The species' accepted common name, bigcone Douglas-fir, stresses its Pseudotsuga lineage and the extraordinary size of its cones.
The species has been grown successfully outside the continental United States. It was unknown in Europe until the seedlings were raised at Bayfordbury, England, in 1910. Trees also have been reported growing in Sussex and North Ireland, where they reached heights of more than 18 m (60 ft) and crown spread of 12 m (40 ft) (3).