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 Abies subsp. var.  Fir
Abies koreana cone.jpg
Habit: tree
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: perennial
Exposure: sun, part-sun
Water: moist, moderate
Features: evergreen
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: to
Sunset Zones: vary by species
Flower features:
Pinaceae > Abies var. ,

Firs (Abies) are a genus of between 45-55 species of evergreen conifers in the family Pinaceae. All are trees, and reach heights of 10-80 m (30-260 ft) tall with trunk diameters of 0.5-4 m (2-12 ft) when mature. Firs can be distinguished from other members of the pine family by their needle-like leaves, attached to the twig by a base that resembles a small suction cup; and by erect, cylindrical cones 5-25 cm (2-10 in) long that shatter at maturity to release the winged seeds.

Douglas-firs are not true firs, being of the genus Pseudotsuga.

They are most closely related to the cedars (Cedrus). Identification of the species is based on the size and arrangement of the leaves, the size and shape of the cones, and whether the bract scales of the cones are long and exserted, or short and hidden inside the cone.

Whorled branches bear linear, flattened and sometimes glossy leaves which are mid- to dark green, and often have 2 longitudinal silver bands beneath. Female cones are often purplish-blue, erect, with occasionally protruding bracts, and are produced in late summer and early spring on upper branches.

Firs are sometimes confused with Spruce due to similar appearance, but firs cones grow up instead of down, and they have softer needles that fall directly from the stems, while those of the spruce leave short pegs behind when the needles fall. Douglas-firs are not true firs, being of the genus Pseudotsuga.

Firs are found through much of North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, occurring in mountains over most of the range, and often dominating the northern and mountainous regions.

Nordmann Fir, Noble Fir, Fraser Fir and Balsam Fir are very popular Christmas trees, generally considered to be the best trees for this purpose, with aromatic foliage that does not shed many needles on drying out. Many are also very decorative garden trees, notably Korean Fir and Fraser Fir, which produce brightly colored cones even when very young, still only 1-2 m (3-6 ft) tall.

Small specimens are good for container or bonsai plants.

Birds are attracted by fir seeds.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

ABIES (derivation doubtful). Pinaces. Fir, but the name spruce is often erroneously applied. Tall, pyramidal trees of temperate and cool climates, planted for ornament and for shelter, and also for timber. Leaves lanceolate or oblanceolate, entire, sessile, persistent for many years; on young plants and lower sterile branches flattened, usually deep green and lustrous above and silvery white beneath from the presence of many rows of stomata, rounded and variously notched at the apex, appearing 2-ranked by a twist at their base; on upper fertile branches crowded, more or less erect, often incurved or falcate, thickened or quadrangular, obtuse or acute: fls. axillary, appearing in early spring from buds formed the previous summer on branchlets of the year, surrounded by involucres of the enlarged scales of the fl.-buds; staminate fls. pendent on branches above the middle of the tree; pistillate fls. globular, ovoid or oblong, erect on the topmost branches: fr. an erect ovoid or oblong cylindrical cone, its scales longer or shorter than their bracts, separating at maturity from the stout persistent axis. Northern and mountainous regions of the northern hemisphere, often gregarious. Twenty-three species are distinguished; greatest segregation on the Cascade Mts. of Ore., in the countries adjacent to the Medit., and in Japan. Many species which have been referred to Abies are now included in Picea.

They are handsome in cultivation, but usually of short-lived beauty. The firs prefer moist, well-drained soil.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Grow in fertile, well drained moist soil. Full sun. Soil should be neutral to slightly acidic. Some wind shelter. Most tolerate shade and do best where summers are cool.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

In cultivation, firs are most beautiful while young, and usually lose their Tower branches and become thin and unsightly as they grow older, and many of the species have little ornamental value for more than fifty years. In the northern and eastern states, the most valuable ornamental species are the Colorado form of A. concolor, with pale or 1 bluish foliage, and the Japanese A. brachy- phyUa, with leaves that are dark green and very lustrous above and silvery beneath. In the United States, A. brachyphylla assumes a compact pyramidal form of growth, but in Japan old trees become, unlike those of any other fir. round-headed. The other Japanese fir that has been cultivated in the United States long enough to show its value as an ornamental tree, A. Veitchii, produces longer branches than A. brachyphylla and is of more open habit and is less valuable for ornamental use. After A. concolor and A. brachyphylla, the best fir trees for the eastern United States are A. cilicica from Asia Minor and A. Nordmanniana from the Caucasus. In its young state, A. cilicica forms a dense pyramid of gray-green foliage and as it grows in the Pinetum at Wellesley, Massachusetts, is an object of great beauty. A. Nordmanniana is one of the commonest fir trees cultivated in the eastern states, although it sometimes suffers from cold in New England, where it frequently becomes thin and unsightly. In the middle states, however, it is often an object of great beauty. The two eastern American species, A. bahamea and A. Fraseri, and the related species from the Rocky Mountains, A. lasiocarpa, grow badly in cultivation, and are shortlived and not handsome. Of the Pacific coast species, A. grandis can be kept alive in favorable situations in the eastern states, and A. amabilis, which grows slowly always in cultivation, is hardy but gives little promise of becoming of much value anywhere except on the mountains of northeastern America. The summers in the southern states are too hot for the successful cultivation of fir trees, and the climatic conditions of the Mississippi Valley are not favorable for their successful growth. In the parks and gardens of the Pacific states, fir trees grow better than in any other part of North America, and in the neighborhood of the Pacific Ocean can be grown successfully the firs of western North America, Mexico, Europe, India and eastern Asia.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Cylindrical cones 5-25 cm (2-10 in) long shatter at maturity to release the winged seeds, leaving a spiky stalk.

Sow seeds in container in a cold from when they are ripe, or in late winter. Stratify for 3 weeks to aid in germination. Graft cultivars in winter.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Propagation is mostly by seeds. The percentage of fertile seeds produced by firs is much smaller than that yielded by spruces and pines, and small crops of seedlings are often secured from large sowings of the seeds. The seeds lose their fertility sooner than those of many conifers and cannot be safely kept more than one or two years; they should be planted in carefully prepared seedbeds and covered with soil to a depth equal to the thickness of the seed. Young plants begin to appear at the end of a few weeks, and, as they are extremely sensitive to the heat of the sun, they need the protection of lath or brush screens. Like other conifers, the different species can be propagated by side-grafting on other species of the genus. Grafted plants, however, are less valuable than seedlings and propagation in this way is slow and expensive, as the work must be performed in glass houses. The leading or other upright-growing shoot should be chosen for the graft, as trees obtained by the use of lateral branches for grafts do not often grow into erect or shapely trees. The species most commonly used for stocks are A. Picea and A. balgamea.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Pests and diseases

Firs are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Chionodes abella (recorded on White Fir), Autumnal Moth, Conifer Swift (a pest of Balsam Fir), The Engrailed, Grey Pug, Mottled Umber and Pine Beauty.

Firs are also prone to Adelgids, bark beetles, bagworms, woolly aphids, spruce budworms and a wide variety fungi that can cause needle blights and root rot. Rust diseases are especially common.


Abies grandis foliage
Intact and disintegrated Bulgarian Fir cones
Abies alba foliage from Dinaric calcareous fir forests on Mt. Orjen
  • Section Balsamea (Taiga|boreal Asia and North America, and high mountains further south)
    • Abies fraseri - Fraser Fir, Southern Fir, Southern Balsam Fir. Sunset zones 36, 37. Native to higher, cooler elevations of the Appalachian Mountains. Attractive pyramidal tree resembling A. balsamea in looks and in fragrance. Popular choice of Christmas tree to grow in areas with not very hot summers.
    • Abies balsamea - Balsam Fir, Sunset zones 3-7, 15-17, 36-38, 42-44. Native of NE US. Pyramidal tree up to 50ft tall with dark green needles. Doesn't thrive in hot-summer climates. Has legendary fragrance, making it popular for wreaths and Christmas trees. 'Nana' is a dwarf variety good in rock gardens and containers.
      • Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis - Bracted Balsam Fir
    • Abies bifolia - Rocky Mountains Subalpine Fir
    • Abies lasiocarpa - Coast Range Subalpine Fir, Alpine Fir, Rocky Mountain Fir. Sunset zones 1-9, 14-17. Native to high elevations in western US. Grows into a narrow, 60-90 foot tall steeple shaped tree in the wild under good, moist soil. In gardens it typically loses this narrow shape and height. Bluish-green needles, 1 to 1.5 inches long.
      • Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica - Corkbark Fir
    • Abies sibirica - Siberian Fir
    • Abies sachalinensis - Sakhalin Fir
    • Abies koreana - Korean Fir. Sunset zones 3-9, 14-24, 32, 34, 39. Native to Korea. Slow-growing and compact tree up to 30 feet in a pyramidal shape. Green needles are shiny and short. Young and small trees set cones. 'Aurea' variety is smaller, slower growing and has gold-green foliage.
    • Abies nephrolepis - Khinghan Fir
    • Abies veitchii - Veitch's Fir
      • Abies veitchii var. sikokiana - Shikoku Fir
  • Section Grandis (western North America to Mexico and Guatemala, lowlands in north, moderate altitudes in south)
    • Abies grandis - Grand Fir or Giant Fir
      • Abies grandis var. idahoensis - Interior Grand Fir or Giant Fir
    • Abies concolor - White Fir, Sunset zones 1-9, 14-24, 34-37, 39, 41. Native to mountains of the West and Southwest, but can do well in Northwest and humid-summer parts of North and Northeast. Also does well in lower Midwest and in some lower-elevation parts of interior West. Reaches 50-70 feet in gardens. Bluish-green needles which are 1-2 inches long. 'Candicans' is bluish white.
      • Abies concolor subsp. lowiana - Low's White Fir
    • Abies durangensis - Durango Fir
      • Abies durangensis var. coahuilensis - Coahuila Fir
    • Abies flinckii - Jalisco Fir
    • Abies guatemalensis - Guatemalan Fir
  • Section Abies (central, south & east Europe, Asia Minor)
    • Abies nebrodensis - Sicilian Fir
    • Abies alba - Silver Fir, European Silver fir (syn. A. pectinata). Columnar tree having dark green leaves, the undersides of which are silver, up to 1 inch (2.5cm) long. The leaves are in a v-shape arrangement on the shoots. Cones are cylindrical and yellow-green, then turn brown as they ripen to 4-6 inches (10-15cm) with protruding bracts.
    • Abies borisii-regis - Bulgarian Fir
    • Abies cephalonica - Greek Fir
    • Abies nordmanniana - Nordmann Fir or Caucasian Fir. Sunset zones 3-11, 14-24, 32-37. Native to Caucasus, Asia Minor and Greece. Vigorous, densely foliaged fir. Under cultivation reaches 30-50 feet tall, 20 feet wide. Needles are dark green and shiny, .25 to 1.5 inches long, having whitish bands underneath, and densely covering the branches. Does well in warm and dry summer western US and humid mid-Atlantic and southeastern states, but does best with regular water. Can be kept long-term in containers.
      • Abies nordmanniana subsp. equi-trojani - Turkish Fir
    • Abies cilicica - Cilician Fir
  • Section Piceaster (southern Spain, northwest Africa)
    • Abies pinsapo - Spanish Fir. Sunset zones 5-11, 14-24, 32, 33. Native to Spain. Does very well in both warm/dry regions and cool/moist. Slow growth to 50 feet. Sometimes mistaken for a spruce (due to dense, symmetric form). Stiff needles are deep green and .5 to .75 inches long. They are set uniformly around branches. 'Glauca' variety is blue gray.
      • Abies pinsapo var. marocana - Moroccan Fir
    • Abies numidica - Algerian Fir
  • Section Momi (east & central Asia, Himalaya, generally at low to moderate altitudes)
    • Abies kawakamii - Taiwan Fir
    • Abies homolepis - Nikko Fir. Sunset zones 32, 34, 36-38. Native to Japan. Broad, dense and formal fir up to 80 feet in height. Densely arranged needles which point forward. Well suited to warm and moist areas.
    • Abies recurvata - Min Fir
      • Abies recurvata var. ernestii - Min Fir
    • Abies firma - Momi Fir, Japanese Fir. Sunset zones 4-6, 17, 32, 34. Native to Japan. Broadly pyramidal, reaches 40-50 feet, branches are slightly above horizontal. Dark green needles are lighter underneath. Tolerates hot, moist climates.
    • Abies beshanzuensis - Baishanzu Fir
    • Abies holophylla - Manchurian Fir
    • Abies chensiensis - Shensi Fir
      • Abies chensiensis subsp. salouenensis - Salween Fir
    • Abies pindrow - Pindrow Fir
    • Abies ziyuanensis - Ziyuan Fir
  • Section Amabilis (Pacific coast mountains, North America and Japan, in high rainfall mountains)
  • Section Nobilis (western USA, high altitudes)
    • Abies procera - Noble Fir. Sunset zones 3-5, 15-17, 36, 37. This fir will grow slowly and satisfactorily in the Northeast, but does much better in the Northwest which it is native to (Northernmost California to Washington). In gardens it grows over 100 feet tall into a narrow and graceful tree. Inch-long needles are blue-green, branches are short and stiff, cones are 6-10 inches long and 3 inches wide, with extended bracts.
    • Abies magnifica - Red Fir
      • Abies magnifica var. shastensis - Shasta Red Fir


  • American Horticultural Society: A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, by Christopher Brickell, Judith D. Zuk. 1996. ISBN 0789419432
  • Sunset National Garden Book. Sunset Books, Inc., 1997. ISBN 0376038608
  • Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

External links

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