The Noble Fir

ABIES

Introduction

One of the great trees of the world (great in stature, great in their importance to man) are the firs or balsams, the original Christmas trees of the northen hemisphere. Abies are a genus of 50 species of evergreen conifers from Europe, North Africa, Asia and North America. They are survivors from the last ice age

Uses

Abies are valued for their timber and their rich harvest of perfumed balsam. Most Firs literally ooze with the gum which is used in pharmacy.

Points of Interest

In the wild, Firs grow at an astonishing rate - 1m in a year is common - and reach a vast size. Firs of almost 100 m have been recorded. The Latin name is from abeo - I rise.

Abies grow readily from seed contained in the ripened cones.

Cones point upwards like the candles on a Christmas tree, whereas on the other conifers that are similar in appearance, they hang down.

Noble fir

Abies procera is a fir from western North America that became popular in Britain and Ireland mostly as a garden ornamental. It grows to its full height in the mountains.

The Noble fir grows to between 30metres and 50metres in height and up to 9 metres in width.

Identification:

The leaves are flattened needles 1cm - 3,5cm long, grey-green to bright blue grey, with narrow grey bands on the reverse side.

The cones are cylindrical, green and brown, 15cm - 25cm long. These grow on the uppermost branches when the tree is 6m or more tall. Male and female cones are borne on the same tree.

The bark is silvery grey

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