Coniferous Tree Species are Dominant in Washington

Washington's forests are home to about 25 native tree species.

The forests of the Pacific Northwest contain more evergreens than almost anywhere in the United States. Altogether, Washington's forests are home to about 25 native tree species. Just as all plants grow best when they live in the environment they are most suited for - cactus in the desert, grasses in the plains - tall, green firs and cedars prefer our cool, wet winters and moderate summers. Below are a few of the more popular tree species that you'll find in our state.

Seven Common Washington Trees


Western Hemlock

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Washington State Tree

Look for:

Short, flat needles with rounded tips and two white lines on the underside. Needles grow on sides of branches forming a flat spray. Cones small, under 1 inch. Thin bark with red inside. Droopy top.

Find it:

Mostly Coastal, also Lowland and Mountain. Found on moist sites.

Used for:

Lumber, treated lumber, newsprint, paper and paper products.


Douglas-fir

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Look for:

Single yellow-green needles, about 1 inch long that encircle the stem and twist at the base with two white bands underneath. Cones up to 4 inches long, with pitchfork-shaped bracts protecting the seeds. Bark deeply furrowed on mature trees. Top erect.

Find it:

All four regions, most common in Coastal and Lowland.

Used for:

Most important lumber tree in the U.S., also used for plywood, Christmas trees, paper and paper products.


Western Red Cedar

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Look for:

Tiny, flat, sale-like needles that grow in alternating pairs, tightly pressed to the stem forming spray-like branches. Very small cones, under 1 inch long. Stringy bark that can be pulled off in long strips.

Find it:

Mostly Coastal and Lowland, also Mountain and Eastside. Usually grows in moist areas and in shade of other trees.

Used for:

Shakes, shingles, decking, caskets, interior and exterior siding and fencing.


Sitka Spruce

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Look for:

Sharp, stiff, bluish-green needles 1-inch long needles that encircle the twigs. Pale, slender cones up to 4 inches long. Bark forms plates the size of silver dollars. Most tops have been attacked and killed by the Spruce budworm.

Find it:

Coastal and Lowland

Used for:

Lumber, paper, musical instruments, and ladders.


Ponderosa Pine

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Look for:

Long, needles, 5-10 inches, yellow-green, 3 per bundle. Cones 3-6 inches long, round with sharp tips. Bark of older trees orange-brown, with broad, flat scaly ridges and deep furrows.

Find it:

Eastside (on dry soils)

Used for:

Lumber, decorative molding, furniture wood and pilings.


Red Alder

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Look for:

Oval-shaped leaves, 3-6 inches long, shiny green, with serrated edges and pointed tips. Cones small 1 inch. Splotchy gray bark.

Find it:

Coastal and Lowland

Used for:

Most important hardwood in the Northwest. Furniture wood, pallets, paper, and paper products.


Pacific Yew

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Look for:

Dark-green needles, 1 inch, with pointed ends. Fruit is a single seed surrounded by a scarlet, cup-shaped "berry." Thin, dark purplish, scaly bark. Small tree that lives in the shade of other trees.

Find it:

Coastal, Lowland, and Mountain

Used for:

Archery bows and cancer-fighting drugs.


The Tree of Choice

Because it grows so well in all of our forest regions, and because its wood is prized worldwide for its strength and durability, Douglas-fir is often the tree of choice for many Washington forest landowners. The tree's intolerance of shade means Douglas-fir grows best in open sunlight. That's why it does so well in land cleared by harvesting, wildfire, or even volcanic eruption.