Gray-brown podzolic soils cover most of western Washington and sections of the Northern Rocky Mountains. These soils support good stands of coniferous forest and lush pasturelands, but when cultivated, they require heavy applications of lime and artificial fertilizers.
Soils characteristic of semiarid areas cover the drier eastern section of the state. These soils are generally rich in mineral plant nutrients. Even thin soils, known as lithosols, which cover the eastern flanks of the Cascade Range, provide excellent crops of apples and other fruits when irrigation water is applied.
Forests cover about half of the total land area of Washington. Most of the forests are located in the mountainous sections of western and northeastern Washington, where precipitation is sufficient to support forest growth.
The Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, western red cedar, and western hemlock, which is the state tree, dominate the forests of western Washington. They have great commercial value. In the dense rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula, Douglas firs grow more than 60 m (200 ft) high and 3 m (10 ft) in diameter. Hardwoods, such as the Oregon, or big-leaf, maple, vine maple, red alder, madrone, black cottonwood, and Oregon ash, grow near streams.
The forested regions of eastern Washington are dominated by the ponderosa, or yellow, pine and at elevations above 750 m (2,500 ft) by the western white pine and the western larch. In the higher forests of the Olympic and Cascade mountains are found the lowland, noble, and alpine firs, whitebark and lodgepole pines, Engelmann spruce, mountain hemlock, and Alaska cedar.
Among the small trees and shrubs of Washington are the dogwood, Pacific yew, huckleberry, and salal.
Mosses and ferns cover the forest floor. The wood sorrel, wild vanilla, fireweed, trillium, and anemone are found in the lower mountain forests, as is the coast rhododendron, which is the state flower. Among the flowers of the higher mountain, or alpine, meadows are the avalanche lily, phlox, lupine, bistort, and piper bluebell. Flowers found in the open fields of eastern Washington include the white hellebore, adder’s-tongue, Indian paintbrush, and brown-eyed Susan.
The rangelands of the Columbia Plateau are arid and sparsely vegetated. Shrubs and low grasses predominate, with sagebrush, rabbit brush, bitterbrush, Idaho fescue, and bluebunch wheatgrass being the most common plants. Where overgrazing has damaged the range, cheatgrass is found. "Washington" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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