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Guide to successful Douglas fir growth

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A new Forestry Commission research bulletin which provides guidance for British growers on the use of Douglas fir seed from different origins in North America will be launched at the APF International Forestry Machinery Exhibition today. (Thursday 23 September)

Entitled “Choice of Douglas fir seed origins for use in British forests”, the bulletin traces the history of Douglas fir from its introduction from Northwest America in 1827 to its present-day distribution. It summarises the experiments that have been conducted to determine which varieties are most suitable to grow successfully in Great Britain. 

It recalls that although the Douglas fir has a wide natural distribution, early experimentation revealed that some varieties, in particular the Rocky Mountain variety, were unsuitable for use in Britain. Research using field trials found that seeds from orchards which were based on similar environmental conditions to those in the UK would provide the best source of planting stock for use here. 

The trials identified the superiority of seed originating from four American regions, and the bulletin includes a seed origin suitability map of Britain to help forest managers select seed from the most suitable regions for particular sites.

The authors are Alan Fletcher and Sam Samuel, both of whom are former Heads of Forest Research’s Tree Improvement Branch, and the bulletin (Number 129) is a companion publication to Bulletin 127 on Sitka spruce seed origins, published in 2007.    

Thde Forestry Commission research bulletin “Choice of Douglas fir seed origins for use in British forests” costs £17 and is available to purchase from the Forest Commission marquee at the APF show at Cannock Chase in Staffordshire today, tomorrow and Saturday.

It can also be ordered from Forestry Commission Publications, PO Box 501, Leicester LE94 0AA; tel/fax: 0844 991 6500; e-mail: Please quote stock code FCBU129. Cheques should be made payable to Forestry Commission.

Information about all Forestry Commission publications can be found at, where digital (pdf) versions of many publications are available to view and download. 


  1. Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii,) was introduced to Britain by the Scottish plant hunter David Douglas, giving rise to its English name. Its botanical name commemorates another Scottish naturalist, Archibald Menzies who, while serving as a surgeon aboard the Discovery under Captain George Vancouver in 1792, became the first European to identify the species, at Nootka Inlet on Vancouver Island in Canada.
  2. On appropriate sites, Douglas fir grows fast, is well adapted to British conditions, and produces versatile, durable timber suitable for a wide range of uses. Douglas fir trees are among the tallest trees in Britain, with some specimens standing more than 61 metres (200 feet) tall.
  3. Alan Fletcher worked in Forest Research from 1963 to 1997 and led the breeding programme for Sitka spruce. In the 1980s he led teams of European Union specialists to survey and designate areas of Douglas fir which could provide seed suitable for use in Western Europe. He was head of the Tree Improvement Branch from 1992 to 1996.
  4. Sam Samuel worked in Forest Research from 1970 to 2010, providing support in the analysis and interpretation of data from seed origin evaluation and tree breeding programmes. He was Head of the Tree Improvement Branch from 1996 to 2004.

Media contact: Charlton Clark, 0131 314 6500