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 The Douglas Fir man

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Caro
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PostSubject: The Douglas Fir man   Wed 18 Mar 2015, 22:40

An article some time ago in one our newspaper, in the garden and lifestyle section, had a mini biography of David Douglas, for whom the Douglas fir is named.  In New Zealand 90% of our timber industry is from pinus radiata and Douglas firs account for most of the rest at 5%. 
David Douglas came from a humble Scottish family at Scone and left school aged 11 to become a gardener’s apprentice at Scone’s Palace, finally winning a post a the Glasgow University Botanic Garden.  He was sent to America to plant hunt and paid the standard £100, though Joseph Banks (who crops up everywhere in the 19th century), recommended it be upped to £180.
He never had enough money but spent much time in western America.  The paper said he was a phenomenal marksman but also seemed to be quite canny, getting himself out of sticky situations with American Indians by being prepared to wait and look non-aggressive. With their help he obtained cones from the tallest pine, Pinus lambertiana. He made his way to Hudson Bay by foot and canoe and estimated he walked more than 16,000kms in America, arriving back in England a hero.  The plants he brought back were hardy in Britain, and he also brought flowers like phlox, poppies and penstemons. He was elected a Fellow of the Linnean, Geological and Zoological Societies, but wasn’t suited to the company of others and went off again with a Scottish terrier called Billy.
He found plenty of plants but lost them in a canoeing accident.  Then he was off to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and was entranced by them, climbing into the crater of Mauna Loy and frightening himself. He was losing his eyesight, the paper suggests by his poor diet, and at the aged of 35 met his death in a gruesome accident, being found crushed by a bull in a pit designed to catch wild cattle.  It is not known whether his odd courage (aka foolhardiness, risk-taking) and macho qualities led him to test it out, or if his poor eyesight meant he didn’t see it, or even if he was murdered and thrown there.  “There was talk of him carelessly showing his money bag to an ex-convict. It would have been ironic if he was killed for his money as he spent his whole life in abject poverty.”  [This all reminds me of the book, The Rose, by Jennifer Potter where she also talked of the lack of money of the people sent out to seek out new roses/flowers/plants in Asia.]  When I googled David Douglas the second site said in capital letters: WHO KILLED DAVID DOUGLAS? But other sites said an enquiry showed no evidence of murder.
I am not sure when the Douglas fir was named after him.  Wikipedia says, “Pseudotsuga menziesii, also known as Oregon pine or Douglas spruce. The common name honours David Douglas, a Scottish botanist and collector who first reported the extraordinary nature and potential of the species. The common name is misleading since it is not a true fir, i.e., not a member of the genus Abies. For this reason the name is often written as Douglas-fir (a name also used for the genus Pseudotsuga as a whole).

The specific epithet, menziesii, is after Archibald Menzies, a Scottish physician and rival naturalist to David Douglas. Menzies first documented the tree on Vancouver Island in 1791. Colloquially, the species is also known simply as Doug-fir or as Douglas pine (although the latter common name may also refer to Pinus douglasiana).”
http://www.rampantscotland.com/famous/blfamdouglas.htm
Wikipedia also says it has become an invasive pest in New Zealand, with wilding pines spreading.  I know that environmental groups are forever trying to dig these wilding pines out, but I had assumed they were pinus radiata; maybe they are both.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: The Douglas Fir man   Thu 19 Mar 2015, 00:01

Caro -
Given the mixed reactions to a certain P.G. shown by denizens of this particular pond, is it safe to mention "Earthly Joys" and "Virgin Earth" about the Tradescants?
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PostSubject: Re: The Douglas Fir man   Thu 19 Mar 2015, 04:44

I read and like those many years ago, but have forgotten most of them.  That was a long time before The Other Boleyn Girl, etc. Probably a shame the Tradescants gave their name to a plant that is now basically a weed?  Or is that just the case in NZ?  I think it's a really pretty plant, but not to be grown in gardens here.
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PostSubject: Re: The Douglas Fir man   Thu 19 Mar 2015, 08:02

The tallest tree in the UK is a Douglas fir growing in Reelig Glen near Inverness - in 2005 it measured 64m (210 ft).

And in Britain the most planted pine for forestry is the Sitka 'spruce', Pinus sitchensis, also introduced by Douglas, and named after the old Russian capital of Alaska on Baronof Island. It grows well in the damp British climate but is rather hated as a bit of an eyesore when planted in huge, regular monochrome blocks on upland fells, it also readily self-sows and so there is a danger of it getting established in some of the last pockets of natural Scots pine forest.
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PostSubject: Re: The Douglas Fir man   Thu 19 Mar 2015, 10:32

The more trees the better as far as these characters are concerned;

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PostSubject: Re: The Douglas Fir man   Thu 19 Mar 2015, 10:51

True Trike, to a degree, only pine martens are carnivores, eating birds, their fledgelings and their eggs, plus squirrels, mice and other small animals ... and all these wee beasties prefer a rather more open, diverse forest of native trees and plants. Sitka plantations tend to be dense mono-cultures of an alien species, which isn't good for much else than themselves.

That said, here we have beech martens, also known as stone martens .... and they seem to have diversified their diet in response to man's actions. Unfortunately they have now developed a taste for rubber ... and in particular all the pipes and clad cables under the bonnets of cars ... especially Toyotas!
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PostSubject: Re: The Douglas Fir man   Thu 19 Mar 2015, 11:11

Some of the pine martens in Scotland have developed a taste for jam and peanut butter sandwiches.
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PostSubject: Re: The Douglas Fir man   Thu 19 Mar 2015, 11:52

The more trees the better as far as these characters are concerned;

Not those bludy sitka spruce though, green deserts. Almost nothing grows or lives in the dark and horrible sterile undercroft and then when they are harvested, it's carnage reminiscent of the Somme. Forestry ploughing is so deep that it rips the guts out of any archaeology and although there's a plethora of guidance, advice and information available, unless it's near something listed or scheduled, it is, to all practical purposes, a free for all.
A group I was involved with were fortunate to have good relations with a landowner so were able to work for a few years on a newly planted plantation. Because the plough goes through the peat cover, we uncovered a mesolithic, neolithic and bronze age landscape over the almost the entire area: camp and lithic working sites, structures, features, post holes, pits and pottery and huge assemblages of lithics. Once the seedlings got going though, we had to stop. The roots will now be destroying the even larger number of sites that we never got to.
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PostSubject: Re: The Douglas Fir man   Thu 19 Mar 2015, 13:05

Sitka spruce should be controlled - as should $%^&%^ leylandii and lawsonii - should be harder to get permission to plant those than to get a gun licence.
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PostSubject: Re: The Douglas Fir man   Thu 19 Mar 2015, 15:15

Remember these are commercial timber plantations. They are not nature reserves or meant to look nice, but to produce timber on a large scale.

This is another commercial plantation, in Perth & Kinross, producing Christmas Trees:

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PostSubject: Re: The Douglas Fir man   Thu 19 Mar 2015, 15:22

The Forestry Commission was set up after WW1, because the demand for timber during had reduced forest coverage in Britain to 5% of land area.
Timber was regarded as a strategic resource like coal, and by 1919 British reserves of timber were dangerously low.
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