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The Douglas Fir Tree - The Prequel #46 Traditional Geocache

Hidden : 08/27/2022
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Geocache Description:

This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest.  This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.


Douglas-fir (Tree): Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca is also known as Douglas-fir, Douglas spruce, Oregon pine, and Columbian pine. There are three varieties: coast Douglas-fir (P. menziesii var. menziesii), Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (P. menziesii var. glauca) and Mexican Douglas-fir (P. menziesii var. lindleyana).

Secwepemc: tsq̓ellp (Douglas-fir)

Stl’atl’imx (Fraser River): srap7úl (Douglas-fir)

Nłeʔkepmxcin: c̓q̓áłp (fir tree)

Líl̕wat: srap7úl (Douglas-fir)

Tsilhqot’in: tsintsen (Douglas-fir)

English translation: Douglas-fir Tree


Family: Pinaceae

Origin: Native

General: Large conifer (25-35 m tall)

Bark: Grey-brown and smooth with resin blisters while young, as it ages it becomes very thick having a corky like texture baring deep vertical grooves or ridges that have a redish-brown colour.

Leaves: Needles. Bright green uppers, pale green backsides, flat with a single center ridgeline coming to a point that is not sharp. The needles are arranged spirally around the twigs they grow on and are about 3cm in length.

Cones: Oval shaped but narrow. Turning from green to tan as they mature, the cones are typically 2 – 4 inches in length having scales with three-pointed bracts that protrude from above each scale.

Despite its name, the Interior Douglas-fir is not a fir tree. It is a Pseudotsuga (fake hemlock), a genus of evergreen coniferous trees with only 4-6 commonly recognized species, with Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) itself being the most well-known. Throughout history, it has been documented as pine, spruce, fir, hemlock, and even sequoia, but it is none of these. Douglas-fir trees are widespread in the forests of Gold Country mainly due to their drought resistance, which is second only to that of the ponderosa pine within this region. 

Coast Douglas-firs can live up to 1300 years and large specimens in the past have been found up to 5 metres (16 Ft.) in diameter with heights of 120+ metres (390+ Ft.), which if still standing today, would be taller than any living tree in the world. However, many notably large specimens such as the Nooksack giant in Washington and the Lynn Valley Giant in the Vancouver area were cut down several decades ago, which makes coast Douglas fir only the 4th tallest living species of tree in the world, with the largest living individual standing 99.7 metres (327 Ft.) tall in Brummit Creek, Oregon.

Douglas fir trees and forests are the primary habitats for many animals including spotted owls, red tree voles, and some moths, and their seeds, needles, and inner bark are the primary food source of the titular Douglas squirrel, blue grouse during spring, and North American porcupine during winter respectively.

Indigenous Cultural Information: Douglas-fir is a historically popular choice as the floor and beams of indigenous lodges and sweat lodges, it was also used as fuel for pit cooking, fishing hooks, snowshoes, and handles. The seeds were used for food and the branches were used for bedding. A tea from the bark of young Douglas Fir was used to treat colds, ulcers, stomach problems, and tuberculosis.  A poultice was used to treat rheumatic joints.  Infusing red alder, western hemlock and Douglas-fir bark would be used to treat internal injuries.  Liquid pitch was used to make a salve to treat cuts, bruises and other skin problems. The spring green fir tips would be used to make a herbal tea with Nootka rose petals and brown dye could even be made from the bark.

“A Pacific Northwest Indigenous legend tells that there was once a great fire in the forest. All the animals began to flee to escape the fire; the birds flew away and the deer and other animal were able to run away. However, the mice with their tiny legs were not quick enough to outrun the fire.

They asked the maple tree, the western hemlock and the western red cedar for help, but they were unable to offer help. Then they reached a Douglas-fir who encouraged the mice to climb up its thick, fire-resistant trunk and hide in its fir cones. The mice took shelter inside the cones and survived the devastating fire. Even to this day, if you look at the cones of a Douglas-fir closeup, you can see the little hind feet and tails of the mice sticking out from beneath the scales of the fir cones.” –

Interesting Facts: Douglas-fir are the most fire-resistant tree native to the pacific northwest. Douglas-fir was named after David Douglas, who was a Scottish botanist. David Douglas was responsible for introducing many of British Columbia's native conifers to Europe. Fossil records have traced this species back to about 50 million years ago.

Douglas-fir trees were also used to create a crystalline sugar, often called douglas-fir sugar or wild sugar. Indigenous Peoples gathered it from branches on specific trees in the interior of BC and it was used as a candy and sweetener. It was traded to upper BC and among other nearby groups, was extremely rare and valued, yet it has rarely been seen as of recent.

Nłeʔkepmxcin: k̓əłpékeʔ (fir sugar) Douglas-fir sugar


Researched and written by Leith McLean and Lana Rae Brooks

Accessed Aug 26, 2022

Accessed Aug 26, 2022

Accessed Aug 26, 2022

Accessed Aug 26, 2022

Accessed Aug 26, 2022

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