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"Fir Tree" redirects here. For the County Durham town, see Fir Tree, County Durham.
Temporal range: 49–0 Ma
Abies koreana (szyszki).JPG
Korean fir (Abies koreana) cone and foliage
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Abies

See text

Firs (Abies) are a genus of 48–56 species of evergreen coniferous trees in the family Pinaceae. They are found through much of North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, occurring in mountains over most of the range. Firs are most closely related to the genus Cedrus (cedar). Douglas firs are not true firs, being of the genus Pseudotsuga.

They are large trees, reaching heights of 10–80 m (33–262 ft) tall and trunk diameters of 0.5–4 m (1 ft 8 in–13 ft 1 in) when mature. Firs can be distinguished from other members of the pine family by the unique attachment of their needle-like leaves and by their different cones.

Identification of the different 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.


Firs can be distinguished from other members of the pine family by the unique attachment of their needle-like leaves to the twig by a base that resembles a small suction cup.

The leaves are significantly flattened, sometimes even looking like they are pressed, as in A. sibirica.

The leaves have two whitish lines on the bottom, each of which is formed by wax-covered stomatal bands. In most species, the upper surface of the leaves is uniformly green and shiny, without stomata or with a few on the tip, visible as whitish spots. Other species have the upper surface of leaves dull, gray-green or bluish-gray to silvery (glaucous), coated by wax with variable number of stomatal bands, and not always continuous. An example species with shiny green leaves is A. alba, and an example species with dull waxy leaves is A. concolor.

The tips of leaves are usually more or less notched (as in A. firma), but sometimes rounded or dull (as in A. concolor, A. magnifica) or sharp and prickly (as in A. bracteata, A. cephalonica, A. holophylla). The leaves of young plants are usually sharper.

The way they spread from the shoot is very diverse, only in some species comb-shaped, with the leaves arranged on two sides, flat (A. alba) [2][clarification needed]


Firs differ from other conifers in having erect, cylindrical cones 5–25 cm (2–10 in) long that disintegrate at maturity to release the winged seeds.

In contrast to spruces, even large fir cones do not hang, but are raised like candles.

Mature cones are usually brown, young in summer can be green, for example:

A. grandis, A. holophylla, A. nordmanniana

or purple and blue, sometimes very dark:

A. fraseri, A. homolepis (var. umbellata green), A. koreana ('Flava' green), A. lasiocarpa, A. nephrolepis (f. chlorocarpa green), A. sibirica, A. veitchii (var. olivacea green).[2]


Section Abies[edit]

Section Abies is found in central, south, and eastern Europe and Asia Minor.

Section Balsamea[edit]

Section Grandis[edit]

Section Grandis is found in western North America to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, in lowlands in the north, moderate altitudes in south.

  • Abies grandis—grand fir or giant fir
    • Abies grandis var. grandis—Coast grand fir
    • Abies grandis var. idahoensis—interior grand fir
  • Abies concolor—white fir
    • Abies concolor subsp. concolor—Rocky Mountain white fir or Colorado white fir
    • Abies concolor subsp. lowiana—Low's white fir or Sierra Nevada white fir
  • Abies durangensis—Durango fir
    • Abies durangensis var. coahuilensis—Coahuila fir
  • Abies flinckii—Jalisco fir
  • Abies guatemalensis—Guatemalan fir
    • Abies guatemalensis var. guatemalensis
    • Abies guatemalensis var. jaliscana

Section Momi[edit]

Section Momi is found in east and central Asia and the Himalaya, generally at low to moderate altitudes.

Section Amabilis[edit]

Section Amabilis is found in the Pacific Coast mountains in North America and Japan, in high rainfall areas.

Section Pseudopicea[edit]

A. fabri, Sichuan, China

Section Pseudopicea is found in the Sino-Himalayan mountains at high altitudes.

Section Oiamel[edit]

Section Oiamel is found in central Mexico at high altitudes.

Section Nobilis[edit]

A. magnifica, California, USA

Section Nobilis (western U.S., high altitudes)

Section Bracteata[edit]

Section Incertae sedis[edit]

Section Incertae sedis

Uses and ecology[edit]

Wood of most firs is considered unsuitable for general timber use, and is often used as pulp or for the manufacture of plywood and rough timber. Because this genus has no insect or decay resistance qualities after logging, it is generally recommended for construction purposes as indoor use only (e.g. indoor drywall on framing). This wood left outside cannot be expected to last more than 12 to 18 months, depending on the type of climate it is exposed to. It is commonly referred to by several different names, including North American timber, SPF (spruce, pine, fir) and whitewood.

Nordmann fir, noble fir, Fraser fir and balsam fir are popular Christmas trees, generally considered to be the best for this purpose, with aromatic foliage that does not shed many needles on drying out. Many are also decorative garden trees, notably Korean fir and Fraser fir, which produce brightly coloured cones even when very young, still only 1–2 m (3.3–6.6 ft) tall. Other firs can grow anywhere between 30 and 236 feet (9.1 and 71.9 m) tall. Fir Tree Appreciation Day is June 18.

Firs are used as food plants by the caterpillars 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, pine beauty and the tortrix moths Cydia illutana (whose caterpillars are recorded to feed on European silver fir cone scales) and C. duplicana (on European silver fir bark around injuries or canker).

Abies spectabilis or Talispatra is used in Ayurveda as an antitussive drug.[3][4]


  1. ^ a b Schorn, Howard; Wehr, Wesley (1986). "Abies milleri, sp. nov., from the Middle Eocene Klondike Mountain Formation, Republic, Ferry County, Washington". Burke Museum Contributions in Anthropology and Natural History. 1: 1–7. 
  2. ^ a b Seneta, Włodzimierz (1981). Drzewa i krzewy iglaste (Coniferous trees and shrubs) (in Polish) (1st ed.). Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe (PWN). ISBN 83-01-01663-9. 
  3. ^ Schar (2015). "Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii". Archives. Doctor Schar. Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  4. ^ Kershaw, Linda (2000). Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies. Edmonton, AB: Lone Pine Publishing. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-55105-229-8. 


Philips, Roger. Trees of North America and Europe, Random House, Inc., New York ISBN 0-394-50259-0, 1979.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Platt, Karen "Gold Fever" provides descriptions of golden or yellow-leaved Abies cultivars