Conifer trees for sun

Washington State earned the moniker “the Evergreen State” for good reason. With at least 22 native conifer species, there is a native conifer to fit most any situation. Here are a few of the most common sun-loving species.

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Douglas-fir (Pseudtsuga menziesii)

The commonest conifer in western Washington, Douglas-fir is tall, deep rooted, and sun and drought tolerant. It may attain a mature height in excess of 250′, surpassed only by redwoods and giant sequoias. Douglas-fir is a common sight in residential neighborhoods of western Washington. It grows rapidly, and resists fire and disease. Take care not to place this tree too close to buildings, beause it tends to shed branches during wind storms.


Shore pine (Pinus contorta v. contorta)

Shore pines dot Washington’s coastal bluffs, where relentless winds shapes them into gnarled, tiered shapes reminiscent of Japanese brush paintings. It’s hard to believe this pine subspecies is closely related to lodgepole pine, the tall straight timber tree of the eastern Cascade Mountains. Around Puget Sound, shore pine grows as a medium-sized tree (40 – 60′) with open branch structure and a rounded crown. Shore pine grows quickly, tolerates sun and drought, and thrives in a wide¬†range of moisture gradients from wetlands to dry rocky outcrops.


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Grand fir (Abies grandis)

Grand fir is the only true fir that occurs naturally in lowlands in the Pacific northwest. True firs – trees of the genus Abies – are predominantly montane species adapted to heavy snow loads and extreme conditions. Grand fir is a notable exception – a tall, lowland conifer with dark green, glossy needles, alternating long and shorter, born in two rows along opposite sides of the branch. Grand fir grows beautifully when planted in sunny or partially shaded lowlands in medium-to-dry soils, and may attain heights exceeding 100′.

Western white pine (Pinus monitcola)

Western white pine occcurs as scattered individuals throughout the forests of western Washington, and occurs in stands on the gravelly prairies of the south sound, notably on Joint Base Lewis McChord. It is a tall, stately tree with checkered bark and a narrow, open crown, and may attain heights over 150′ in ideal conditions. Western white pine grows fast, and tolerates sun and drought. It is generally hardy but it is susceptible to blister rust, which has reduced the native population substantially.