This guide will help you identify the conifers of the Pacific Northwest, native to the states of Oregon and Washington. This is a small sized version of the main Northwest Conifers Web site nwconifers.com. You can view this mobile version on your smart phone to help you identify native conifers when you are out in the woods. It is organized to help you identify conifers by presenting them by area and elevation and showing photos and simple descriptions of identifying features for each conifer native to that zone. Start by looking at the Low-elevation Conifers in northwest Oregon and western Washington. Once you are familiar with them, you can move on to conifers in other areas.
Where to find native conifers
A good place to start looking for low-elevation conifers is a nearby nature park where native conifers have been allowed to grow. For example, in Portland's Forest Park or the Tualatin Hills Nature Park in Beaverton, you can find all the inland low-elevation conifers of northwest Oregon. Hoyt Arboretum in Portland is an excellent place to look for conifers. It has specimens of conifers from all over the world, including most of the species native to the Northwest.
You can find the low-elevation conifers growing throughout the Coast Range and in the lower elevations of the Columbia Gorge and Cascade Mountains. To find higher-elevation conifers growing in their native habitat, you will want to travel to the Cascades, although you can find some mid-level species growing in the Coast Range, for example, the higher elevations of Saddle Mountain near Seaside.
Common names: Like most plants, conifers have names that are determined by common usage. Sometimes a conifer will have several common names used in different regions. Common names can also be misleading. The Douglas Fir is not a true fir, and none of the native trees called cedar are true cedars.
Scientific names: Each conifer species also has a scientific name. Why learn the scientific name? These names give you an unambiguous way to identify a species. These names are assigned and agreed to by botanists based on rigorous classification of each plant. Each species is assigned to a general grouping or genus and given a unique species name. The names are Latin or at least given a Latin ending. The name for a species written as Genus species, written in italics with the genus name capitalized. For example the scientific name of Grand Fir is Abies grandis. This name is universal throughout the world, no matter what language is spoken.
Text and photos in this guide are by Ken Denniston. I have enjoyed hiking the woods of the Northwest for over 50 years, and slowly become acquainted with the magnificent conifers of our region. Recently I have been leading tours and teaching classes on conifer identification at Hoyt Arboretum. In this guide, I have tried to present information about conifers in a form that is easy to access and understand. For more information about conifers and the sources for the information in this guide, see More Info. If you have questions or comments, feel free to contact me.
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