Friday, January 16, 2009

The Douglas-Fir – What’s in a name?

Looking out our window we can easily spot a half dozen Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii), it being a common tree in Seattle. But what does the name mean? After a little digging we found out that the origin of the Douglas-fir common and scientific names are kind of interesting. The common name honors the Scottish botanist David Douglas (1798 – 1834) who introduced the tree into cultivation in 1826. (Douglas died under mysterious conditions after falling into a pit trap in Hawaii!?) The genus name, Pseudotsuga, means “false tsuga” because it resembles trees of the Tsuga genus, but isn’t one. The species name, menziesii, honors the Scottish surgeon and naturalist Archibald Menzies (1754 – 1842). And finally, the hyphen in the common name indicates that it isn’t a true fir or a member of the Abies genus.

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