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Thread: Torsten: please ID a tree?

  1. #1
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    Torsten: please ID a tree?

    In another thread, I mentioned having a couple of fir-type trees but beyond that, I have little clue. The sample is a small tree, about 2 meters in height, growing on the shaded hillside behind the house. The bark at the base is scaly/flaky with a fine texture. The soft needles are 15-20 mm long, pointed,flattened, convex on both upper and lower surfaces with two stomata on each. The are attached to the branch with very small, bark-colored petioles. Needles are sparse or absent on the underside of the branch. Would this be a Douglas fir?


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  2. #2
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    Looks like one to me, but I'm not the forester! Certainly not a pine or spruce. Or cedar.

    I once spent about two years trying to develop a log debarker which would be effective on the stringy bark of cedars. I failed.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  3. #3
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    We have a lot of Douglas-firs in Oregon (it's the state tree). My flora and fauna identifier book for Central Oregon - granted a much different climate than yours - says a key identifier are the three-pointed bracks that stick out between the scales of the cones like a pitchfork. Your little tree probably hasn't developed cones yet but when it does, look for that.

  4. #4
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    Trivial things that bug me: The hyphen that gets stuck into Douglas-Fir.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  5. #5
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    I had something like this in mind when I clicked on the link.

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    Except trees instead of people.

  6. #6
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    The stumps, pegs, petioles or sterigmata at the base of each needle identify it as a species of spruce. In your part of the world I would be thinking black, white or Sitka. The twig is hairless and the needles are sharp, so that rules out black spruce. A map I found shows Sitka spruce right on the edge of its range near your home, and you're well within the range of white spruce. White spruce and Sitka spruce often hybridize, so that complicates identification a bit. The really sharp needles suggest Sitka spruce, and if they are sharp enough to hurt when you grab a branch, then that's a good indicator for Sitka spruce. (Forty odd years ago, when I was handling Sitka spruce seedlings, the needles would often come in contact with the inside of my arms, readily scratching them and some chemical in the needles would cause a rash.) Also, even though the spruce needles have four-sided cross sections, those of Sitka spruce are more flattened so that you cannot roll a needle between your fingers.

    Wow, I haven't had to think about these kinds of details in years. I've grown so accustomed to the appearance of the trees in this part of the province that I simply identify them by their general growth habit, or as they appear from a distance.

  7. #7
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    geonuc: yes, the bracts of Douglas-fir cones are unique. I was taught, and later repeated to my kids, that they look like a mouse trying to burrow into a cone, with only its hind legs and tail visible.

    Trebuchet: The hyphen in Douglas-fir is there because it is not actually a true fir, which are in the genus Abies. Douglas-fir are in the genus Pseudotsuga, which translates as false hemlock! The species must've confused the early classifiers.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for all the input so far, folks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Torsten View Post
    The stumps, pegs, petioles or sterigmata at the base of each needle identify it as a species of spruce. In your part of the world I would be thinking black, white or Sitka. The twig is hairless and the needles are sharp, so that rules out black spruce. A map I found shows Sitka spruce right on the edge of its range near your home, and you're well within the range of white spruce. White spruce and Sitka spruce often hybridize, so that complicates identification a bit. The really sharp needles suggest Sitka spruce, and if they are sharp enough to hurt when you grab a branch, then that's a good indicator for Sitka spruce. (Forty odd years ago, when I was handling Sitka spruce seedlings, the needles would often come in contact with the inside of my arms, readily scratching them and some chemical in the needles would cause a rash.) Also, even though the spruce needles have four-sided cross sections, those of Sitka spruce are more flattened so that you cannot roll a needle between your fingers.

    Wow, I haven't had to think about these kinds of details in years. I've grown so accustomed to the appearance of the trees in this part of the province that I simply identify them by their general growth habit, or as they appear from a distance.
    Okay, the possibility of a hybrid (Lutz spruce) helps this make more sense to me. Upper Cook inlet, including both Knik and Turnagain arms, is definitely within the ranges of white, black, and Sitka spruce. I was a bit confused when trying to nail down the needles. The sample branch doesn't have the full "bottle brush" arrangement typical of spruces but I've read that shaded branches are often sparser on their undersides. This tree is shaded by the mountain in the morning, by my house in the afternoon, and by aggresively sun-seeking alders from above...which may explain its small size in spite of having been there for more than 16 years. The needles are definitely pointed but they're pliable so they aren't at all uncomfortable to handle. A couple of references describe Lutz needles in such a way. I'll have to keep my eye out for cones to see how they compare.

    If it is a Lutz and I tend it well for 100-plus years, it might just become a future Capitol Christmas Tree*.

    * USFWS Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Refuge Notebook • Vol. 17, No. 52 • December 25, 2015
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    I was going to comment earlier that those needles will have developed differently compared with full sun-exposed needles, and are known as shade needles. I can't recall if the cutin is thinner, or if the structure of the cells themselves differs, but it may affect their pliability too. Your tree has the characteristic look of a deeply shaded spruce that is biding its time waiting for the pioneer alder cover to thin or die out. The annual leader growth is short, but it has relatively sprawling limbs.

    White spruce also hybridizes with Engelmann spruce where I live, and I don't know if anyone bothers to distinguish between the two, or to even estimate the level of introgression. I think the amount of introgression varies by elevation, though I'm not certain of that. For Sitka-white, I think it varies by distance from tidewater. It's just really messy.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torsten View Post
    (Forty odd years ago, when I was handling Sitka spruce seedlings, the needles would often come in contact with the inside of my arms, readily scratching them and some chemical in the needles would cause a rash.)
    I get this with mature Sitka. We have a lot of dense, thirty-to-forty-year-old Sitka plantations in Scotland, often forming a barrier between the glen floor and the open hillside above. I've had occasion to push through this sort of stuff on many occasions, and I've learned to "suit up" with a waterproof layer and gloves to keep the needles away from my skin. Otherwise I come out in a mass of wheals. Enough of those, and I start to develop a wheeze, too. Gad, I hate Sitka.

    Grant Hutchison

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torsten View Post
    ...a deeply shaded spruce that is biding its time waiting for the pioneer alder cover to thin or die out.
    ...or for someone to come along and raze said alder to the ground. Something I plan to do this year. Having absolutely no respect for the tradtion of vertical growth, they reach out from the hillside at angles of 45° or more from vertical...which means they can eventually over hang the roof and in one spot, come in contact with a window.

    I think the amount of introgression varies by elevation, though I'm not certain of that. For Sitka-white, I think it varies by distance from tidewater. It's just really messy.
    Yes, from the little bit of reading I've done in the last day or so, I definitely got the impression it's messy. One source described the needles as resembling those I have here. Another described them as being closer to those of a white spruce. I couldn't reconcile the contradiction until another source explained a 1-to-7 point system of grading the degree of hybridization, with 1 being unadulterated white spruce and 7 being all Sitka. Based on that, mine appears to be on the high side of 4.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I get this with mature Sitka. We have a lot of dense, thirty-to-forty-year-old Sitka plantations in Scotland, often forming a barrier between the glen floor and the open hillside above. I've had occasion to push through this sort of stuff on many occasions, and I've learned to "suit up" with a waterproof layer and gloves to keep the needles away from my skin. Otherwise I come out in a mass of wheals. Enough of those, and I start to develop a wheeze, too. Gad, I hate Sitka.

    Grant Hutchison
    Oh yes, the dreaded wall of limbs. I've worked in dense young spruce plantations. Even when the lower limbs have lost their needles, the sterigmata on the twigs will tear at clothing and scratch your skin. The wood of Sitka spruce is a wonderful thing though, especially the clear pieces. I had a conversation with an aircraft restorer in New Zealand earlier this year, and when he learned that I'd been involved in logging of the species when I lived on the BC coast, he wanted to know if I still had contacts there. It's very difficult to source knot-free material with the correct ring density and grain orientation these days.

    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    ...or for someone to come along and raze said alder to the ground. Something I plan to do this year. Having absolutely no respect for the tradtion of vertical growth, they reach out from the hillside at angles of 45° or more from vertical...which means they can eventually over hang the roof and in one spot, come in contact with a window.
    The growth of a conifer leader is "negatively geotropic". You'll often see nonsymmetric growth of the branches in a crown as they extend into and thrive in sunny openings, but the main stem will remain straight. The apical shoots of trees like red alder, on the other hand, are positively phototropic, and the entire stem can grow at a skewed angle if the local environment favours it.

    Oh, if your spruce survives the felling of the overstorey, don't expect immediate release of the tree. Those shade leaves may be overwhelmed by the new light levels. New needles will be added over several years and then the tree can be expected to "take off". Fortunately, you don't live in the range of Pissodes strobi, a weevil that prefers to lay its eggs in vigorous, sun-exposed leaders of white pine and a few spruce species. This insect doesn't seem to find or care for spruce that are overtopped by deciduous trees.

    … I couldn't reconcile the contradiction until another source explained a 1-to-7 point system of grading the degree of hybridization, with 1 being unadulterated white spruce and 7 being all Sitka. Based on that, mine appears to be on the high side of 4.
    So, right in the middle...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torsten View Post
    Oh, if your spruce survives the felling of the overstorey, don't expect immediate release of the tree. Those shade leaves may be overwhelmed by the new light levels. New needles will be added over several years and then the tree can be expected to "take off".
    I hadn’t considered that but then, the mountain and house will continue to provide shade most of the day. Besides, it wouldn’t really do for it to attain full growth. It’s pretty close to the house.

    Fortunately, you don't live in the range of Pissodes strobi, a weevil that prefers to lay its eggs in vigorous, sun-exposed leaders of white pine and a few spruce species.
    Yes, fortunately. We’ve got it bad enough with spruce bark beetles.



    So, right in the middle...[/QUOTE]
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rolling Stone View Post
    I had something like this in mind when I clicked on the link.

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    Except trees instead of people.
    I was thinking along the lines of "I think it's Jeff, because Pete's got the longer hair."
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

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