Abies magnifica

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Abies magnifica
Red fir forest Giant Sequoia National Monument.jpg
Red fir forest, Giant Sequoia National Monument
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Gymnosperms
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Abies
Section: Abies sect. Nobilis
A. magnifica
Binomial name
Abies magnifica
Abies magnifica range map 4.png
Natural range of Abies magnifica

Abies magnifica, the red fir or silvertip fir, is a western North American fir, native to the mountains of southwest Oregon and California in the United States. It is a high-elevation tree, typically occurring at 1,400–2,700 metres (4,600–8,900 ft) elevation, though only rarely reaching tree line. The name red fir derives from the bark color of old trees.


Abies magnifica is a large evergreen tree typically up to 40–60 metres (130–200 ft) tall and 2 m (6 ft 7 in) trunk diameter, rarely to 76.5 m (251 ft) tall and 3 m (9 ft 10 in) diameter, with a narrow conic crown. The bark on young trees is smooth, grey, and has resin blisters, becoming orange-red, rough and fissured on old trees. The leaves are needle-like, 2–3.5 centimetres (341+12 in) long, glaucous blue-green above and below with strong stomatal bands, and an acute tip. They are arranged spirally on the shoot, but twisted slightly S-shaped to be upcurved above the shoot.

The cones are erect, 9–21 cm (3+128+14 in) long, yellow-green (occasionally purple), ripening brown and disintegrating to release the winged seeds in fall.

Abies magnifica: Cones stand upright on branches
Abies magnifica: Needle-like leaves bend upward


There are two, perhaps three varieties:

  • Abies magnifica var. magnifica, red fir – cones 14–21 cm (5+128+14 in) long, bract scales short, not visible on the closed cones. Most of the species' range, primarily in the Sierra Nevada.
  • Abies magnifica var. shastensis, Shasta red fir – cones 14–21 cm (5+128+14 in) long, bract scales longer, visible on the closed cone; bark 10–15 cm (4–6 in) thick. The northwest of the species' range, in southwest Oregon and Shasta, Siskiyou[2] and Trinity Counties in northwest California.
  • A. magnifica on the eastern slopes of southern Sierra Nevada – possibly a third variety, have not been formally named, also having long bracts, and additionally have smaller cones, 9–15 cm (3+12–6 in) long.


Red fir is very closely related to Abies procera (noble fir), which replaces it further north in the Cascade Range. They are best distinguished by the leaves; noble fir leaves have a groove along the midrib on the upper side, while red fir does not show this. Red fir also tends to have the leaves less closely packed, with the shoot bark visible between the leaves, whereas the shoot is largely hidden in noble fir. Shasta red fir hybridizes with noble fir, with which it is both chemically and microscopically similar;[2] some botanists treat the former as a natural hybrid between red and noble fir.

First recording[edit]

This tree was first recorded by William Lobb on his expedition to California of 1849–1853, having been overlooked previously by David Douglas.[3]


The wood is used for general structural purposes and paper manufacture. It is also a popular Christmas tree.

Paiute peoples used the foliage of Shasta red fir (or perhaps noble fir) to treat coughs and colds.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Farjon, A. (2013). "Abies magnifica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T42290A2970154. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T42290A2970154.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Arno, Stephen F.; Hammerly, Ramona P. (2020) [1977]. Northwest Trees: Identifying & Understanding the Region's Native Trees (field guide ed.). Seattle: Mountaineers Books. pp. 143–149. ISBN 978-1-68051-329-5. OCLC 1141235469.
  3. ^ Toby Musgrave; Chris Gardner & Will Musgrave (1999). The Plant Hunters. Seven Dials. p. 147. ISBN 1-84188-001-9.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Abies magnifica (red fir) at Wikimedia Commons