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Trees in Eastern Washington

Eastern Washington lies between the Rocky Mountains to the north and east, and the Cascades to the west. This creates an assortment of ecosystems, with rainforests in the western portion of the region and deserts in other parts. Various kinds of trees exist in this half of the state, which encompasses about 45,000 square miles.

Water Birch

Water birch (Betula occidentalis) grows along waterways in Eastern Washington and is a common type of birch from Alaska into parts of New Mexico and Arizona. Water birch thrives on moist ground, and the species provides both shelter and food for many kinds of wildlife in Eastern Washington. Certain species of grouse feast on the buds, seeds and catkins of the water birch, as do chickadees and kinglets, among other birds. The water birch is often little more than a tall shrub, with few exceeding 25 feet in height. The water birch will grow in many sorts of soil, and the tree has few problems growing in the shade. Transplanting young water birch seedlings is usually easy, as long as you place them in moist soil. Water birch is a good choice for wetland areas. The tree attracts hummingbirds, which drink the tree’s sap.

Netleaf Hackberry

Netleaf hackberry (Celtis laevigata) is the lone elm species that is native in the Pacific Coast states, including Eastern Washington. Netleaf hackberry reaches the northern portion of its geographic range in Washington, growing in the dry canyon terrain of both the Snake and Columbia Rivers. A small tree species, netleaf hackberry grows to 30 feet high when mature, and has a gnarled and contorted trunk that makes it a unique ornamental. The leaves have distinct veins and grow thick on the branches; the twisted limbs are often sought out by birds, such as the bullock’s oriole and the magpie, as a nesting site. Netleaf hackberry needs full sun and damp ground, as it typically grows near streams and rivers. This species requires watering until it gains traction, after which it is low maintenance. The small fruits are the size of peas and a reddish-orange color; birds will gladly dine on them in late fall.

Interior Douglas Fir

Interior Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is a large coniferous tree that grows in Eastern Washington near the Columbia River Basin and in the mountainous parts of the region. Inland, Douglas fir has distinct differences from the Douglas firs that exist on the coastal parts of Washington; the coastal trees can grow to 250 feet high, while the interior types top out at about 130 feet. This type does well in the shade when young, has bluish-green needles, grows more slowly and does better in more varied weather extremes. Small mammals like chipmunks, mice and squirrels gobble up this tree’s seeds. The thick outer layers of bark help protect Douglas fir trees from fire. The tree is not difficult to transplant, but needs a large, open area in which to grow to its full potential.

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