Know Your Trees

Knowing your trees is an important first step in managing your woodland. Learn what types of trees and forests you have.

What kind of tree is that?

Forest near Birdseye Creek (Dennis Morgan photo)

Southern Oregon is blessed with a wide variety of conifer trees (evergreens that have cones) – in fact, this region is considered to have more conifer species diversity than any other place in the world! Local species include Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, incense cedar, sugar pine, white fir, and many others. Along with these conifers are many broadleaf or hardwood species, such as black oak, white oak, Pacific madrone, and bigleaf maple. Interestingly, some of these broadleafs don’t lose their leaves in winter, but stay green all year – such as the madrone, canyon live oak, tanoak, and golden chinkapin. That’s why southern Oregon is known for its “mixed evergreen” forest – a mix of both conifers and evergreen hardwoods.

Interested in learning more about what kinds of trees are growing on your property? OSU Extension’s Trees to Know in Oregon is a great place to start. It’s available for $12 at the Extension office or can be ordered on-line at the link above. The Common Trees of the Pacific Northwest through OSU is a great resource with pictures and descriptions of our natives trees.

Getting to know trees is a little like getting to know people – each variety has a different “personality” and a different set of talents. For example, some trees do well on hot dry sites, like oaks and pines, while others like shady, moist locations, like bigleaf maple. Other trees have unusual talents – alder, for instance, is a “nitrogen fixer” – it fertilizes the soil. The more you learn about your trees and their capabilities, the better you’ll be able to take care of them, and the more you’ll enjoy them. A short slide presentation on local tree species can be found below.

Southern Oregon Woodlands and Forests

Photo courtesy of Mary Main

Southern Oregon has several different types of forests as well as other natural vegetation. These are the result of wide variations in rainfall, elevation, aspect (the direction the slope faces, such as north or south), and soils. Some of the most common types include rangeland, chaparral, oak woodland, mixed conifer forest, and riparian vegetation. Southern Oregon is noted for its diversity – you may find one or more of these types on a single property!

Rangeland and chaparral occurs on hot, dry sites. Often these are south-facing slopes. Rangeland is mostly grasses and flowers, both native to the area and non-native.

Chaparral consists of different types of brush. It often comes in after fire or other disturbances.

Oregon white oak (Marty Main photo)

Oak woodlands are common at low elevations in southwestern Oregon. Historically, much oak woodland consisted of fairly large, widely spaced trees, but in the last century, with fire suppression many oak stands have grown more dense. Oak woodlands are especially valued for the diverse wildlife and other organisms that inhabit them.

Mixed conifer forest above Ashland (Marty Main photo)

With still more Mixed conifer forest above Ashland rainfall and deeper soils, you find mixed conifer forests. Conifer trees in this type include Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, incense cedar, and sugar pine. A few white fir and Pacific yew may be found on moist sites. Hardwoods include Pacific madrone, California black oak, Oregon white oak on dry sites, and bigleaf maple on moist sites. On wetter sites, especially in Josephine County, are found mixed evergreen forests. These include the species listed above as well as other hardwoods including tanoak, chinkapin, madrone, and other evergreen hardwoods.

Pleasant Creek

On higher elevation, colder, mixed conifer forests are often dominated by white fir.

Riparian forests are those growing close to water. Common trees include black cottonwood, alder, bigleaf maple, Oregon ash, willows, and other species that are grow along streams where soil moisture is abundant all year long. Riparian areas may also include conifer species. Riparian forests tend to be productive and heavily used by wildlife.

Additional Links

Tree identification links