On Wednesday, Hoyt Arboretum will host a class teaching people to identify the 18 conifers native to northwest Oregon. But what if you don't have time for a class? How do you know which native conifer is best? My dad, Steve Acker, is an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service who studies trees, so I asked him to help me rank our native trees. He, however, would not help me write a typical "Lizzy Acker" "hit piece" on trees. Instead, he created an objective system of ranking our native conifers (ugh, scientists). He still will not reveal which one is his subjective favorite, even to his only daughter, as he thinks all trees are wonderful and doesn't want to hurt any feelings.

Ponderosa Pine Cone (Julia Hutchinson)
Ponderosa Pine Cone (Julia Hutchinson)

Rating System

Part 1: Ease of Identification

4 pt. Unique features make these as easy to identify as falling off a log.

3 pt. These species superficially resemble others, so are a bit more difficult.

2 pt. These species have close relatives that can be hard to tell apart, though knowing your elevation or distance from the ocean can often do the trick.

1 pt. The hardest group, these have close relatives that can be hard to tell apart and sometimes occur at the same elevation. These sometimes even stump (heyooo!) the experts.

Douglas Fir Pine Cone (Julia Hutchinson)
Douglas Fir Pine Cone (Julia Hutchinson)

Part 2: Difficulty to Access By Public Transit (Outside Hoyt Arboretum, which has them all.)

4 pt. One bus or MAX ride.

3 pt. Go to Forest Park and start hiking.

2 pt. Take the bus to Timberline Lodge and take a hike.

1 pt. Put your bike on the bus to Estacada and when you get there, pedal the back roads to Eastern Oregon.

Incense Cedar Pine Cones (Julia Hutchinson)
Incense Cedar Pine Cones (Julia Hutchinson)

Part 3: Typical Lifespan (According to Franklin and Dyrness' Natural Vegetation of Oregon and Washington)

4 pt. 901 years or more

3 pt. 601 to 900 years

2 pt. 301 to 600 years

1 pt. 300 years or less

Douglas Fir (Julia Hutchinson)
Douglas Fir (Julia Hutchinson)

#1. Douglas fir (4 + 4 + 3 = 11pts)

#2. Ponderosa pine (4 + 4 + 2 = 10pts)

#3. [tied] Incense cedar (3 + 4 + 2 = 9pts); Sitka spruce (2 + 4 + 3 = 9pts); Western redcedar (1 + 4 + 4 = 9pts)

#4. [tied] Grand fir (3 + 4 + 1 = 8pts); Pacific yew (3 + 3 + 2 = 8pts); Western hemlock (2 + 4 + 2 = 8pts); Western white pine (2 + 4 + 2 = 8pts)

#5. [tied] Lodgepole pine (4 + 2 + 1 = 7pts); Western larch (3 + 1 + 3 = 7pts); Alaska yellow cedar (1 + 2 + 4 = 7pts)

#6. [tied] Whitebark pine (2 + 2 + 2 = 6pts); Mountain hemlock (2 + 2 + 2 = 6pts); Engelmann spruce (2 + 2 + 2 = 6pts)

#7. [tied] Noble fir (1 + 2 + 2 = 5pts); Pacific silver fir (1 + 2 + 2 = 5pts)

#8. Subalpine fir (1 + 2 + 1 = 4pts)

GO: Native Conifers of Northwest Oregon is at Hoyt Arboretum, 4000 SW Fairview Blvd., 823-1649, hoytarboretum.org, on Wednesday, Oct. 21. 9 am. $20.