20 Common Types of Washington State Native Trees

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Written By Thomas Pitto

Propagation Expert & Permaculture Enthusiast

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Washington state sits in the Pacific Northwest, which is an area with more evergreen trees than anywhere in the United States.

The climate of the state is influenced by the Pacific Ocean, which favors the growth of forests, which abundantly grace around half of the state’s landmass. It is in these forested areas that many of the state’s approximately 25 native trees can be found.

Most of the forested area in the state lies west of the Cascades Range, which supports dense temperate rainforests filled with conifers. However the state has a varied topography; there are also mountains, plateaus, coastal towns, and volcanic peaks which also support different native tree species.

In this article, we’ll look at twenty of the most common native trees found in Washington.

20 Native Trees Commonly Found in Washington State

1. Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)

western hemlock
Image by Gertjan van Noord via Flickr

The Western Hemlock is the official tree of the state of Washington. It’s the largest of the hemlock trees, so if you’re considering planting one, make sure your yard has enough room to accommodate it. They can mostly be found in moist areas around the coast, as well as in lowlands, and mountain areas.

The foliage consists of flat, short needles with rounded tips and two white lines on the underside. The cones are small, measuring less than an inch long. The bark is thin and red on the interior.

Other Common Names: Alaska Pine, and Western Hemlock-Spruce

Growing Zones: 6-7

Average Size at Maturity: 100-150 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: April – May

2. Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Douglas Fir
Image by Andreas Rockstein via Flickr

The Douglas Fir is one of the most important sources of lumber in the country. It features a symmetrical, pyramidal upright growth form and is a fast-growing tree. The needles are soft, blue/green, and have a wonderful aroma.

Douglas Firs are capable of growing up to 3 ft a year and can be used as natural privacy trees or even pruned into a hedge. Older trees can develop lovely drooping pendulous branches. The cones measure 3-4” long.

Older trees develop a fissured reddish/brown bark that provides great visual interest. The Douglas Fir is hardy and can grow in a variety of soils.

Other Common Names: Douglas Spruce, Red Fir, and Oregon Pine

Growing Zones: 5-6

Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 ft tall and 10-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: March-May

3. Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)

western red cedar
Image by Dan Keck via Flickr

The Western Red Cedar features a pyramidal form and a buttressed base when mature. The bark has a brownish, red/cinnamon color, and is fissured and scaly with a fibrous inner bark.

The branches of this Cedar tree are short, horizontal, and drooping. The leaves are bright green above and waxy underneath, small in size. The cones are elongated, and egg-shaped, with 5-6 pairs of flexible scales.

The Western Red Cedar is a popular ornamental tree and is commonly used for hedging as well in suitable areas. They thrive in cool summer areas and don’t tolerate dry conditions.

Other Common Names: Giant Arborvitae, Western Arborvitae, and Pacific Red Cedar

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 50-70 ft tall and 15-25 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

4. Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis)

sitka spruce
Image by Axel Kristinsson via Flickr

The Sitka Spruce is a large coniferous evergreen whose common name comes from Sitka in southeast Alaska. The leaves are sharp and needle-like, whilst the branches droop slightly. It’s a fast-growing species that can be found in lowlands and coastal areas of WA. The Sitka Spruce is the largest of all the spruce trees and the largest conifer on the planet.

The needles are sharp, bluish/green, and hard to the touch. The cones are long, slender, and cylindrical. The bark of the Sitka Spruce is thin and scaly, with circular plates.

Prevalent in large parts of California, Oregon, and Washington, the Sitka Spruce won’t be found more the 50 miles inland from the Pacific. The wood has a high strength-to-weight ratio, making it useful for furniture and musical instruments, amongst other things.

Other Common Names: Coast Spruce, Tideland Spruce

Growing Zones: 7-8

Average Size at Maturity: 50-160 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: May

5. Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)

Ponderosa Pine Tree
Image by Chris M Morris via Flickr

The Ponderosa Pine is a tall, straight-trunked tree with an irregular, cylindrical open crown. The crown is broad on young trees, flattening on older trees as the lower branches are shed.

The bark is blackish/brown and furrowed on young trees, becoming brown/russet/yellow when older, breaking into scaly plates. The needles appear in groups of 3 sometimes 2 or 5 and are olive or yellow/green.

The Ponderosa Pine has a moderate to fast-growth rate and grows best in deep, moist, well-drained soil. It’s highly adaptable and will tolerate alkaline soils, as well as high elevation, wind, humidity, and dry conditions.

We wrote a great article on the different types of pine trees and how to identify them which I recommend reading.

Other Common Names: Yellow Pine, Bull Pine, Blackjack Pine, Western Yellow Pine, Filipinus Pine

Growing Zones: 3-7

Average Size at Maturity: 60-100 ft tall and 25-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: May-June

6. Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana)

mountain hemlock
Image by Megan Hansen via Flickr

The Mountain Hemlock is native to the west coast of North America and is a coniferous evergreen. The bark is thin, dark, and furrowed and younger trees have a narrow and conical crown, whilst older trees develop a more cylindrical shape. The needles are usually between 7 and 25mm in length. Some Mountain Hemlocks tend to grow in a spreading fashion.

Most Mountain Hemlocks can be found 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

Other Common Names: Sierra Hemlock, Black Hemlock, Patton Spruce, and Hemlock Spruce

Growing Zones: 6-8

Average Size at Maturity: 30-100 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

7. Red Alder (Alnus rubra)

Red Alder Tree
Image by Gertjan van Noord via Flickr

The Red Alder is a fast-growing tree that’s suited to coastal and lowland areas of WA. It’s a pioneer species that colonizes recently disturbed sites near streams and cleared or burned land.

The Red Alder features a vivid red inner bark underneath the grey outer layer, which is where the species gets its common name. The leaves are oval, 3-6” long, and shiny green with pointed tips and serrated edges.

The Red Alder is used for furniture as well as the production of paper.

Other Common Names: Oregon Alder, Coastal Alder, Western Alder, and White Alder

Growing Zones: 6-8

Average Size at Maturity: 30-50 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: March

8. Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia)

Pacific Yew
Image by JOE BLOWE via Flickr

The Pacific Yew is found in moist old forests as an understory tree beneath larger trees such as Western Hemlocks or Douglas Firs, according to Native Plants PNW. It’s a slow-growing tree with a rather unpredictable growth habit.

The foliage are needles, similar in appearance to true Hemlocks and Douglas fir trees. Female trees produce a bright red gelatinous berry-like aril (fruit) which is said to be poisonous in large quantities.

Mature Pacific Yews have a shaggy, scaly bark. The bark is the source of one the most widely used natural cancer-fighting drugs in the US, Taxol. The arils are eaten by birds who disperse the seeds, whilst the foliage is browsed by deer.

Other Common Names: Western Yew, English Yew, Japanese Yew, and Mountain Mahogany

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 30-50 ft tall and 30-50 ft wide

Flowering Season: May – June

9. Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis)

The Western Juniper grows in the mountains at altitudes between 800-3000 m. According to the USDA, it grows at all stages of secession (agroforestry) and can be found on low slopes and valleys in many areas. This type of Juniper tree thrives in rocky, dry areas where competition from other trees is minimal.

The foliage consists of scale-like needles in whorls of three and provides food for many small animals. Western Junipers are extremely slow-growing and should be treated as shrubs in the home landscape.

Other Common Names: Sierra Juniper

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 15-30 ft tall and 1.5-5 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

10. Alpine larch (Larix lyallii)

Alpine Larch
Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr

The Alpine Larch is a deciduous, coniferous tree native to high altitude areas (between 1800 and 2400 meters) west of the Cascades in WA. It features a straight trunk and conical crown and can grow in areas with poor soil.

The bark is thin, yellowish/grey, and smooth when young and becomes flaky and reddish brown/purple when mature. The branches grow horizontally, are pendulous, spaced irregularly, and persist on the tree for some time after they die.

The deciduous needles grow in groups of 30-40 and turn golden yellow before being shed. The young cones are red and turn purple-brown before they’re released. According to the American Conifer Society, the Alpine Larch is adapted to growing on poor soils on exposed northern slopes up to the tree line. It has a low shade tolerance as well as fire tolerance because of its thin bark.

Other Common Names: Subalpine Larch, Lyall Larch

Growing Zones: 3-7

Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 ft tall

Flowering Season: June

11. Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)

paper birch tree
Image by Brett Ortler via Flickr

The Paper Birch is native to large parts of North America and gets its name from its thin white bark. It’s a short-lived deciduous tree suited to cooler areas, as they don’t tolerate heat and humidity well.

In such areas Paper Birch’s may only live 30 years, although they can reach 100 in more favorable conditions. The white papery bark of the Paper Birch peels off to reveal the reddish/brown bark underneath creating a gorgeous two-tone contrast in the landscape.

The leaves are dark green and finely toothed, turning golden in the fall before being shed and revealing the eye-catching bark. Paper birches love moist cool soil with an eastern or northern aspect, where the roots are protected from the harsh sun.

Other Common Names: Canoe Birch

Growing Zones: 2-7

Average Size at Maturity: 30-40 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: April – June

12. Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa)

Black Cottonwood
Image by Laura Camp via Flickr

The Black Cottonwood is a tall deciduous broadleaf tree with a conical crown. Fast-growing in youth, the spherical crown becomes rounded with age. The lower branches tend to hang towards the ground. The bark is rough and yellowish-grey, flaking away in small plates with age. The leaves are dark green, elongated to ovoid with a greenish/grey, silver/white underside.

Black Cottonwood can be grown as solitary trees in parks and public areas. They are sensitive to wind and salt sea breezes. They grow best in sandy, clay, or loamy soils.

Other Common Names: Western Balsam Poplar

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 30-100 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: April

13. Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii)

Pacific Madrone
Image by Bri Weldon via Flickr

The Pacific Madrone is a spreading evergreen tree native to the western coast of North America. It features a spreading growth habit and luscious dark leaves up to 6” long.

White urn-shaped flowers appear on the branch tips in the spring and are a luxuriant source of nectar, attracting many pollinators. Small orange/red fruit follow, ripening in the fall and persist into the winter, proving a food source for local birds.

The reddish/brown bark of the Pacific Madrone is thin and peels to reveal a cinnamon-hued inner layer. It’ll grow in averagely moist, acidic soils in full sun or partial shade. The Pacific Madrone is drought tolerant once established.

Other Common Names: Pacific Madrona, Arbutus, Madroño, Bearberry

Growing Zones: 7-9

Average Size at Maturity: 20-50 ft tall and wide

Flowering Season: April – June

14. Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii)

Pacific Dogwood
Image by brewbooks via Flickr

Pacific Dogwoods are variable trees, taking on different forms depending on their location. They feature a round crown of horizontal branches replete with clusters of white flowers.

They can be seen and grown either as single or multi-trunked trees with a delicate tiered branching structure. Pacific Dogwoods are flowering trees with large and showy creamy white flowers sometimes with a pink streak.

The leaves are oval with fine hairs, and the fruit are orange and red as are the fall colors. The Pacific Dogwood can be found at elevations between 3000-6000 ft along moist streams and riverbanks in either full sun or shade. Plant in well-drained rich soil.

If you want to know more about the different types of dogwood trees and how to identify them, we wrote a great article with pictures included, that is well worth reading.

Other Common Names: Canadian Dogwood, and Mountain Dogwood

Growing Zones: 7-9

Average Size at Maturity: 15-40 ft tall and 10-25 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring and occasionally fall

15. Vine Maple (Acer circinatum)

Vine Maple
Image by delirium florens via Flickr

The Vine Maple is native to western areas of North America, from Southern British Colombia down to California. Unlike many other types of maple trees, the Vine maple typically grows as a large shrub but can occasionally be seen as a small tree. In the wild, it’s a vigorous understory tree whose bent limbs can re-root easily when contact with the earth is made.

The leaves of the Vine Maple are pinnately lobed, with 7-9 lobes. Fall colors are orange, red, and yellow. The Vine Maple grows in fertile, well-drained soil.

Other Common Names: Oregon Vine Maple

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 15-25 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

16. Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta)

Lodgepole Pine
Image by docentjoyce via Flickr

The Lodgepole Pine is an extremely adaptable pine tree. Needles appear in bunches of 2 on a twisted spiral with sharp points and have a dark green color. The cones vary in size and shape and can be short and cylindrical or egg shaped but the scales are always sharp. The bark is orange/grey/brown, thin, and scaly.

The Lodgepole Pine can grow in both waterlogged sites as well as in dry rocky outcrops, at various elevations.

Other Common Names: Shore Pine, Twisted Pine, Contorta Pine

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 70-80 ft tall and 10-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: June

17. Alaska Yellow Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)

Alaska Yellow Cedar
Image by Kim Tilli via Flickr

The Alaska Yellow Cedar is an evergreen with needled foliage native to the Pacific coast from Alaska down to Northern California. It’s commonly found alongside streams and rivers or other areas with moist soils.

The foliage is grey/green or blue/green on flattened sprays. The branches are pendulous with upswept ends. The Alaska Yellow Cedar is slow-growing cultivation but can grow rapidly in the wild.

If you want to grow your own in your yard, plant in moist, well-drained sun, in either full sun or partial shade. It can grow in clay, silty loams, and sand-based mediums.

Other Common Names: Alaska Cedar, Yellow Cedar, Yellow Cypress, Nootka False-Cypress, and Nootka Cypress

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 20-40 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

18. Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii)

Engelmann Spruce
Image by Jason Hollinger via Flickr

The Engelmann Spruce is a large evergreen tree with a pyramidal crown with limbs sometimes reaching towards the ground. It’s often found at high altitudes on north-facing slopes and canyons.

At high elevations, trees can take on a stunted shrubby appearance (krummholz) Cones can be either male or female, but appear on the same tree and are small and dark purple, pendulous and mature in just one season.

The leaves of the Engelmann Spruce are needles, 1” long, stiff, blue/green in color, and arise spirally from the twigs in an upward direction. Grows best in deep, moist, well-drained soils.

Other Common Names: White Spruce, Mountain Spruce, and Silver Spruce

Growing Zones: 1-7

Average Size at Maturity: 80-130 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

19. Grand Fir (Abies grandis)

Grand Fir
Image by S. Rae via Flickr

The Grand Fir is a fast-growing tree capable of reaching great heights in the wild. Young trees have a rounded pyramidal crown, becoming columnar with age. The trunk is smooth and the branches are greyish/brown and the needles are dark green and shiny, flat, and have two pronounced white stripes on the underside. Young trees produce green cones whilst older trees’ cones are dark brown.

The Grand Fir can grow in the shade and is used for timber. It’ll grow in all soil types apart from clay.

If you want to learn more about the different types of fir trees and their identifying features you can read our post on those.

Other Common Names: Giant Fir, Lowland White Fir, Balsam Fir, Western White Fir Silver Fir, Oregon Fir, and Vancouver Fir

Growing Zones: 5-6

Average Size at Maturity: 100-250 ft tall and 20-35 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

20. Noble Fir (Abies procera)

Noble Fir
Image by S. Rae via Flickr

The Noble Fir is a large tree native to the Pacific Northwest and is the largest of the true firs. Grown in cultivation it won’t reach the great heights seen in the wild, but will still need to be given adequate space. The bark is silvery/grey whilst the needles are blue/green or blue/grey. The branches grow horizontally and the crown has a conical shape, becoming rounded with age.

The Noble Fir is a long-lived species that will only start producing seeds after around 50 years. It provides food and habitat for a host of birds and small mammals, including jays and chickadees, amongst others. The Noble Fir will grow in moist, well-drained sand, silt, clay, or loams.

Other Common Names: White Fir, Red Fir

Growing Zones: 5-6

Average Size at Maturity: 50-100 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide. (In the wild it can reach 180 to 270 ft tall.)

Flowering Season: Spring

Trees Of Washington

Washington State sits in the Pacific Northwest which is home to more evergreen trees than anywhere else in the United States thanks to the humid climate imparted by the nearby Pacific Ocean.

Being a varied climate zone, Washington State encompasses mountains, plateaus, coasts, and volcanic peaks, there are plenty of different trees to admire in the wild here.

Natives can also be planted in the home landscape for low-maintenance species that can provide great benefits to the environment.

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Thomas Pitto

Propagation Expert & Permaculture Enthusiast

Thomas worked for a number of years as the head of plant propagation for a horticultural contractor taking care of many different species of ornamental trees & shrubs. He learned how to propagate certain endangered endemic species and has a love of permaculture, sustainability and conscious living. When Thomas isn't hiking in nature he can be found playing music, reading a book, or eating fruit under a tree.

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