Friday, September 23, 2011
Douglas-firs in Laurelhurst Park
I bid farewell to summer yesterday with a walk through Laurelhurst Park. The big Dougs were bleeding sap like nobody's business.
David Douglas, the famous Scottish botanist, is the namesake of those majestic kings of Oregon's Cascade forests. Douglas earned the honor by introducing the mighty conifer to Europe in 1827. Douglas-firs are not true firs. They belong to a genus known as Pseudotsug, which was created specifically to distinguish them as unique from other conifers. (Dougs have distinct cones that set them apart.)
It's good that they're named for a Scot, because I can imagine no more apt appellation for these magnificent trees. Tall and proud (sometimes attaining heights of over 300 feet), they remind me of nothing so much as the fearsome, kilted warriors of the highlands, the mountain men who stood fast in the trenches at El Alamein, and who fought bravely in the face of defeat at Culloden. Their needled canopies are a deep Tartan blue-green. The sap flowing down their trunks is like blood streaming from the sword pricks of vanquished enemies.
In my boyhood, I would listen to the wind passing through the boughs of the Douglas-firs on my maternal grandfather's farm outside Salem. It was like the roar of distant waves. Or perhaps it was some defiant echo, a ghostly challenge from some Scottish host confronting its enemy on a long-ago battlefield.