Douglas-fir Pseudotsuga menziesii
Habitat & Elevation Moist slopes below 5,000′
Collection Leaf Tip: spring; Twig, Bark: all seasons
Indigenous Names Mountain Maidu: liham cha
Douglas-fir Pseudotsuga menziesii
Plant type Evergreen tree
Size 80′ – 160′ tall x 20′ – 30′ wide
Light Partial shade in youth
Water Drought tolerant to regular
Zone 4 to 10
Douglas-fir is a large, pyramidal conifer, growing 80′ – 160′ given regular water in the garden setting, and larger in the wild. Its branches are covered with dark-green 1½” needles. Branchlets are feathery and slightly drooping. Cones are 2″ – 4″ long, oval and hang from the branches. For best success, plant young trees raised from seeds of local trees. They can tolerate dry or moist soil.
Fir Tip Sorbet (Vegan)
Collect tips in the spring, when bright green in color.
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 quart fresh or frozen Douglas-Fir tips plus a few extra to
use as garnish
– Bring water and sugar to a boil, stir, and turn off heat.
– Add Fir tips and steep covered for 30 minutes.
– Keep liquid and use a fine mesh strainer to
– Chill overnight in refrigerator.
– Freeze in ice cream maker according to
– Garnish sorbet with extra Fir tips and serve.
TIP If young Fir tips are not available, mature needles can be used.
NOTE Fir tips are high in Vitamin C.
Douglas-Fir Probiotic Soda
Collect young tips in spring.
Fir Tip Soda Ingredients
2 cups fresh Fir tips, chopped
½ cup sugar
GINGER STARTER Ingredients
1 quart jar
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
Cloth jar cover with rubber band
GINGER STARTER Method
Make a Ginger Starter (called a “Bug”) 1 week ahead.
– Put all ingredients into a quart jar.
– Daily, for 7 days, feed your starter 2 teaspoons sugar
and 2 teaspoons chopped ginger. Keep jar covered
with cloth and rubber band.
– When bubbles form and start to make sounds, the
starter is ready. Strain out what is needed to make
soda and keep ¼ cup for a new starter. For a new
starter, add the starter ingredients to ¼ cup reserved
starter and follow method again.
FIR TIP STARTER Method
– Bring 4 cups water, ½ cup sugar and 2 cups
chopped Fir tips to a boil. Turn off heat and let steep
– Mix 1 cup strained ginger starter per 1 quart
unstrained Fir soda and pour into fliptop bottles.
– Let sit in warm location for 2 – 5 days and test
for flavor. If desired, let sit longer to create more
carbonation and less sweetness. Open lids to let air
out of bottles once a day.
– Keep refrigerated. Strain when serving, garnished
with fresh Fir tips.
Note This “soda” is a very good digestive aide that is
also very high in Vitamin C.
Manzanita and Douglas-Fir Cider
Collect Fir tips in spring (or use boughs year round)
and Manzanita berries in summer.
– Simmer 2 cups ground berries and leftover seeds/skin
from making Manzanita sugar to 6 cups water for 20 minutes.
– Add 4 cups Douglas-Fir branches and turn off heat.
– Let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and refrigerate.
– Use within 1 week and enjoy a drink with both
antioxidants and Vitamin C.
TEA Add 3 fresh leaf tips, high in Vitamin C, to hot water and steep for at least 15 minutes, according to the traditions of the Karok, Yurok and Thompson Indians.[4, 5,16] The Coast Salish people of British Columbia drank a tea from the ground bark for colds and respiratory problems. To use the bark, collect fresh inner bark (from a fallen tree) by cutting a small 2″ strip of bark from the trunk and peeling back the layers until you can remove some of the inner bark (cambium). Grind, then boil for at least 30 minutes and drink 3 times daily.
NOTE As a dietary supplement, the bark from Douglas-fir along with species of Pine and the seeds from Grapes have been used as a source for Pycnogenol-like products. These products are taken as antioxidants to improve circulation and boost the immune system.
Boil 6 fresh leaf tips or twigs for 15 minutes. Strain and drink as a tea according to the Okanagan-Colville Indians.
Purification and Ceremony
Use branches for good luck and for cleansing prior to ceremony. Make tips into a tea and use externally as a purifying wash.
Rheumatism, Sore Muscles, Joint Inflammation
Tie small pieces of bark together, ignite them and direct smoke over area of pain or make tea from the leaves, strain, and add to hot bath.
Urinary Tract Infections
Boil 6 fresh leaf tips in 1 cup water for 15 minutes. Used as a urinary remedy by the Okanagan-Colville Indians.