Ecological Restoration Specialists

Author Archive | Ben Alexander

Garry oak – Quercus garryana


Quercus garryana, also called Garry oak or Oregon white oak, is the only oak native to Washington, ranging from California to British Colombia. It has lobed, deciduous leaves, and greenish-yellow flowers which appear in separate male and female catkins. First peoples traditionally used the acorns for food, eating them roasted or treating them using various methods to remove the bitter taste, then making soup or bread. Lumber from Garry oak was used in ship-building and furniture. Due to its strength and rot-resistance, Garry oak also was used as for fence posts. This is a slow-growing species, but it may live up to five hundred years and often reaches sixty feet in height at maturity. It is drought tolerant, and can grow in many types of soil, from gravelly prairies to seasonally flooded plains.Garry oak is often considered a dry site species, but it also grows along wetland and stream edges in close association with Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia).

Garry oaks are most common on sites regularly disturbed by fire, and sites that are not suitable for taller tree species, as they are vulnerable to being over-topped and crowded out. This makes them an early successional, or seral species. They establish especially well with a frequent fire regime, as mature trees are fire tolerant and sprout vigorously from their trunk or roots after burns. Since settlers began suppressing wildfires, Douglas-fir encroachment has substantially reduced the extent of Garry oak woodlands, harming out not only oaks but the diverse set of species that depend on the oak woodlands, which include a variety of jays, woodpeckers, squirrels and other small mammals.


Grand Fir – Abies grandis

Abies Grandis
(Grand Fir)
          Grand fir is native to the Pacific Northwest from Montana to the Pacific coast and southern British Columbia to northern California, and it inhabits altitudes from sea level to 1800 meters. Unlike Douglas-fir, Grand fir is a “true fir” of the genus Abies. True firs have flattened needles with blunt tips, and they bear sticky, resinous cones that stand uniquely upright near the tips of the upper branches, unlike any other conifers. True firs typically occur at high elevations, and grand fir is the only true fir in the western US that occurs down to sea level. Abies grandis is shade tolerant enough to establish itself under a thick canopy, and once it breaks through the canopy, along with douglas firs, it tends to dominate late-succession forests in this region. Mature individuals usually range from 40-70 meters in height, and have a trunk diameter of two meters at the thickest.
Leaves on this fir are needle-like and flat. The upper side of the needle is glossy dark green but the underside has two narrow, whitish bands of stomata that run lengthwise. Each needle has a miniscule notch at the end, on the same plane as the middle vein. Leaves are arranged on the branches in a spiral, but each leaf twists at the base, creating a distinctive appearance of two flattened rows of needles that seem to alternate between short and long. The mature crown is usually narrow and dense. This tree has both male and female cones- the male cones cluster underneath the needles, while the tall female cones stand upright above the needles and are much larger.
            When true fir cones mature, the cones shed their seeds while still borne on the branches, unlike Douglas-firs and other conifers. The seeds fall into the litter below the parent tree, where they spend the winter. During this time, the seeds stratify, which means that frost and weathering soften the hard seed coat so they may sprout. Because of this process, the seeds are not viable past their first spring.
For current availability of grand fir, click here.

Price Drop on Live Stakes

livestakes2Nearly all species of live stakes have dropped in price:

Scouler’s willow from $0.32/ft to only $0.25/ft

Pacific willow from $0.34/ft to $0.28/ft

Geyer willow only $0.38/ft

Sitka & Hooker’s  $0.25/ft

Cottonwood & R.O. Dogwood from $0.32/ft to only $0.28/ft

Call us today for a quote on your next project!

Western Hemlock – Tsuga heterophylla

TSHE drawing 3


Tsuga heterophylla
(Western hemlock)

The western Hemlock is easily identifiable by its drooping, conical top and similarly drooping branches. It ranges from 165 to 230 feet in height, and can reach up to 9 feet in diameter. Its needles are flat, short, and rounded, and their dark green top surfaces contrast with the bottom surface, which is dominated by two white parallel stripes. These needles are arranged in a spiral, but twist around at the base in order to form two flat rows. The hemlock is monoecious, meaning that it has male and female cones- male cones are small, yellow, and appear at the bases of needles, whereas female cones are purple, brown when they mature, and situated terminally on branches.
Preferring high humidity and precipitation, the Western Hemlock tends to grow near the Pacific coast, and its native range reaches from the northern end of California to the southern tip of Alaska. It can be found in a range of elevations, from sea level up to 7000 feet. Seedling growth starts out very slow, and young plants often grow from nurse logs and other coarse woody debris. Because of the species’ tolerance for shade, these hemlocks are able to establish themselves under a thick canopy until a gap can be exploited, which leads to rapid growth and the shading out of other less-shade tolerant plants. This makes the species a late-succession specialist, which thrives in areas where fires, which would restart succession, are actively suppressed by human intervention. In addition, these trees are long lived, with recorded individuals of up to 1200 years.
The Western Hemlock has been used in the timber industry, which is a major reason for its introduction to temperate areas outside of its native range, such as the eastern United States and western Europe. Its cambium is edible, and fresh needles can be brewed to make a bitter but vitamin c-rich tea. The tree also forms ectomycorrhizal relationships with edible fungus, such as several chantrelle species, so it’s a good one to keep an eye out for while mushroom hunting.
For current availability of Western hemlock, click here.