Trees of Washington's Forests

The forests of the Pacific Northwest contain more evergreens than almost anywhere in the United States. Evergreen trees are special because they do not lose their needles during the fall. Washington’s forests are home to about 25 native tree species. 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. When foresters practice sustainable forestry, many different types of trees grow throughout the four main forest regions during the sustainable forestry life cycle. Below are a few of the more popular tree species that you’ll find in our forests.

Here are seven common trees in Washington's forests

Western Hemlock

Did you know Western Hemlock is the Washington State Tree?​

Facts about western hemlock

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

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.

Used For: Lumber, treated lumber, newsprint, paper, and paper products.

Scientific name: Tsuga heterophylla


Did you know Douglas-fir was names after David Douglas, a Scottish botanist?

Facts about DOUGLAS-FIR

Find It: All four regions, most common in Coastal and Lowland.

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.

Used For: Mainly lumber, also used for plywood, Christmas trees, paper, and paper products.

Scientific name: Pseudotsuga menziesii


Did you know Western Red Cedar chips are used to make medical masks and gowns?

Facts about Western Red Cedar

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

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.

Used For: Shakes, shingles, decking, interior and exterior siding and fencing, and wood chips to make medical masks and gowns.

Scientific name: Thuja plicata


Did you know Sitka Spruce is used to make sounding boards in pianos and other musical instruments such as violins and guitars?

Facts about Sitka Spruce

Find It: Coastal and Lowland

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.

Used For: Lumber, paper, musical instruments, and ladders.

Scientific name: Picea sitchensis


Did you know Ponderosa Pine seeds are an extremely valuable food source for birds and squirrels?

Facts about Ponderosa Pine

Find It: Eastside region on dry soils.

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.

Used For: Lumber, decorative molding, furniture wood and pilings.

Scientific name: Pinus ponderosa


Did you know Red Alder grows fast, up to 1 meter per year until age 20?

Facts about Red Alder

Find It: Coastal and Lowland

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

Used For: Furniture wood, pallets, cabinets, paneling, paper, and paper products.

Scientific name: Alnus rubra


Did you know the most well-known natural-source cancer drug in the United States, Taxol, is derived from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree?

Facts about Pacific Yew

Find It: Coastal, Lowland, and Mountain

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.

Used For: Archery bows, canoe paddles, cabinetry, furniture, musical instruments, and cancer-fighting drugs.

Scientific name: Taxus brevifolia

Tree of Choice



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.​

benefit of trees

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Home for Wildlife

learn more about our forests

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What Type of Tree is This?

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Dendrology - the study of trees

Can you identify the scientific name of these trees?

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Pinus ponderosa

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Tsuga heterophylla

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Alnus rubra

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Pseudotsuga menziesii

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Thuja plicata

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Taxus brevifolia

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Picea sitchensis

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Learn more about how trees and wood products mitigate climate change.