One of my favorite things about being a Sea Grant Scholar is having the opportunity to spend time outside getting familiar with the native wildlife. The Pacific Northwest is well known for its plentiful coniferous trees that stay green all year long. When I first got to this part of Oregon, I assumed all the trees were just one same dominant species. Little did I know that although there are a few different species of trees that make up the coast, there are three main conifers that can be easily distinguished from each other.
They are the firs, pines and spruces. The main fir in the area is the Douglas Fir. This can be identified by its softer needles that stick out in all directions from the branch. Its cones have three pointed bracts pointing out, which resemble a mouse tail and two feet from a myth. The pine here is the Shore Pine. It has dark green pokey needles that come in pairs, and even its cones have spikes on it. Finally, the spruce in this area is the Sitka Spruce. Spruces are mostly known as being Christmas trees, but the Sitka Spruce is a little different. It has very sharp points and the bark is layered and scaly looking. The cones are very papery.
Although they all look similar to the untrained eye, once you know the distinguishing differences between these common conifers, you can identify them anywhere. It’s so fun to hike around the area and identify the local trees, plants, birds and other animals. I’m excited to expand my knowledge as the summer continues!