The state of Washington has a diverse natural ecosystem that contains many different climate types. The state is perhaps most well known for the temperate wet forests of the Cascade and Coastal mountain ranges and the valleys in between. Dense conifer forests cover most of the area up to the alpine tree line. The high amount of rainfall year round and mild winters allow a diverse number of native species thrive in the pleasant climate.
Douglas Fir Tree
The Douglas fir, scientific name Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii, is a dominant tree in most of western Washington. Mature trees reach 100-200 feet tall with a long dark-colored trunk and rough bark. It grows in full sun in all but the wettest and driest areas of the state. It is a fast-growing conifer with dark green needles and slender cones that readily produce viable seeds. The seeds are a valuable food source for many woodland animals such as birds and squirrels. This is a commonly logged tree that produces long, straight timbers for construction material.
Sword ferns (scientific name Polystichum munitum) are found up and down the west coast from California to the Yukon Territory and Alaska. They thrive in rocky wet woodland settings usually associated with Douglas fir or redwood forests. In old growth forests it's common for sword ferns to be the dominant ground cover thriving under the heavily shaded canopy.
A mature plant can have 75 to 100 fronds that are up to three feet long and ten inches wide. The underside of the fronds are covered with dark brown spots called sporangia which is where the spores develop and is the primary mode of natural reproduction.
The Pacific Rhododendron, scientific name Rhododendron macrophyllum, is native to forests and hillsides from Northern California to Southern British Columbia and from the seacoast in the west to the Cascade mountains in the east. It can often be found as an understory plant in dense wet forests. The shrub grows to 12 feet high and has red to pink or almost white flowers that bloom from May through July.
This shrub has become a popular landscape plant around the country because of it's showy flower display. It has been the official state flower of the State of Washington since 1892.