Last updated

Temporal range: 49–0  Ma
Abies koreana (szyszki).JPG
Korean fir (Abies koreana) cones and foliage
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Subfamily: Abietoideae

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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 .

A genus is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, as well as viruses, in biology. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus comes above species and below family. In binomial nomenclature, the genus name forms the first part of the binomial species name for each species within the genus.

In biology, a species ( ) is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction. Other ways of defining species include their karyotype, DNA sequence, morphology, behaviour or ecological niche. In addition, paleontologists use the concept of the chronospecies since fossil reproduction cannot be examined. While these definitions may seem adequate, when looked at more closely they represent problematic species concepts. For example, the boundaries between closely related species become unclear with hybridisation, in a species complex of hundreds of similar microspecies, and in a ring species. Also, among organisms that reproduce only asexually, the concept of a reproductive species breaks down, and each clone is potentially a microspecies.

Evergreen plant that has leaves in all four seasons

In botany, an evergreen is a plant that has leaves throughout the year that are always green. This is true even if the plant retains its foliage only in warm climates, and contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season. There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs. Evergreens include:


They are large trees, reaching heights of 10–80 m (33–262 ft) tall with 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 way in which their needle-like leaves are attached singly to the branches with a base resembling a suction cup, and by their cones, which, like those of true cedars ( Cedrus ), stand upright on the branches like candles and disintegrate at maturity.

Suction cup fastener that uses negative fluid pressure to adhere to a surface

A suction cup, also known as a sucker, is a device or object that uses the negative fluid pressure of air or water to adhere to nonporous surfaces, creating a partial vacuum.

Conifer cone Reproductive organ on conifers

A cone is an organ on plants in the division Pinophyta (conifers) that contains the reproductive structures. The familiar woody cone is the female cone, which produces seeds. The male cones, which produce pollen, are usually herbaceous and much less conspicuous even at full maturity. The name "cone" derives from the fact that the shape in some species resembles a geometric cone. The individual plates of a cone are known as scales.

<i>Cedrus</i> genus of plants

Cedrus is a genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinaceae. They are native to the mountains of the western Himalayas and the Mediterranean region, occurring at altitudes of 1,500–3,200 m in the Himalayas and 1,000–2,200 m in the Mediterranean.

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.


<i>Abies alba</i> species of plant

Abies alba, the European silver fir or silver fir, is a fir native to the mountains of Europe, from the Pyrenees north to Normandy, east to the Alps and the Carpathians, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and south to Italy, Bulgaria, Albania and northern Greece; it is also commonly grown on Christmas tree plantations in the North East region of North America spanning New England in the USA to the Maritime provinces of Canada.

Wax class of chemical compounds that are plastic (malleable) near ambient temperatures.

Waxes are a diverse class of organic compounds that are lipophilic, malleable solids near ambient temperatures. They include higher alkanes and lipids, typically with melting points above about 40 °C (104 °F), melting to give low viscosity liquids. Waxes are insoluble in water but soluble in organic, nonpolar solvents. Natural waxes of different types are produced by plants and animals and occur in petroleum.

Stoma part of a plant

In botany, a stoma, also called a stomate, is a pore, found in the epidermis of leaves, stems, and other organs, that facilitates gas exchange. The pore is bordered by a pair of specialized parenchyma cells known as guard cells that are responsible for regulating the size of the stomatal opening.

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.

Leaf organ of a vascular plant, composing its foliage

A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant and is the principal lateral appendage of the stem. The leaves and stem together form the shoot. Leaves are collectively referred to as foliage, as in "autumn foliage". some of the leafs have colour or shaps

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

<i>Abies sibirica</i> species of plant

Abies sibirica, the Siberian fir, is a coniferous evergreen tree native to the taiga east of the Volga River and north of 67°40' North latitude in Siberia through Turkestan, northeast Xinjiang, Mongolia and Heilongjiang.

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 .

Glaucous is used to describe the pale grey or bluish-green appearance of the surfaces of some plants, as well as in the names of birds, such as the glaucous gull, glaucous-winged gull, glaucous macaw, and glaucous tanager.

<i>Abies concolor</i> species of fir tree, native to mountains of western North America

Abies concolor, the white fir, is a coniferous tree in the pine family Pinaceae. This tree is native to the mountains of western North America from the southern Cascade range in Oregon, south throughout California and into the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir in northern Baja California; west through parts of southern Idaho, to Wyoming; and south throughout the Colorado Plateau and southern Rocky Mountains in Utah and Colorado, and into the isolated mountain ranges of southern Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico. White fir live over 300-years and naturally occur at an elevation between 900–3,400 m (2,950–11,200 ft).

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

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

Section Balsamea

Section Balsamea is found in northern Asia and North America, and high mountains further south.

Section Grandis

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

Section Momi

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

Section Amabilis

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

Section Pseudopicea

A. fabri, Sichuan, China Abies fabri in mist.jpg
A. fabri , Sichuan, China

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

Section Oiamel

Section Oiamel is found in central Mexico at high altitudes.

Section Nobilis

A. magnifica, California, USA Red fir.jpg
A. magnifica , California, USA

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

Section Bracteata

Section Bracteata (California coast)

Section Incertae sedis

Section Incertae sedis

Uses and ecology

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 in construction purposes for indoor use only (e.g. indoor drywall on framing). Fir wood left outside cannot be expected to last more than 12 to 18 months, depending on the type of climate it is exposed to.

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.

Abies religiosa —sacred fir, is the overwinter host for the monarch butterfly ( Danaus plexippus ). This insect species migrates from central and north United States and south Canada to Central Mexico (Michoacán and Estado de Mexico). During the fall migration, monarchs cover thousands of miles, with a corresponding multi-generational return north. The western North American population of monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains often migrates to sites in southern California but has been found in overwintering Mexican sites as well. [3] [4]

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 (cough suppressant) drug. [5] [6]

Related Research Articles

<i>Abies balsamea</i> species of plant

Abies balsamea or balsam fir is a North American fir, native to most of eastern and central Canada and the northeastern United States.

<i>Abies nordmanniana</i> species of plant

Abies nordmanniana, the Nordmann fir or Caucasian fir, is a fir indigenous to the mountains south and east of the Black Sea, in Turkey, Georgia and the Russian Caucasus. It occurs at altitudes of 900–2,200 m on mountains with precipitation of over 1,000 mm.

<i>Abies grandis</i> species of plant

Abies grandis is a fir native to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California of North America, occurring at altitudes of sea level to 1,800 m. It is a major constituent of the Grand Fir/Douglas Fir Ecoregion of the Cascade Range.

<i>Abies magnifica</i> species of plant

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.

Fraser fir species of plant, Fraser Fir

The Fraser fir is a species of fir native to the Appalachian Mountains of the Southeastern United States.

<i>Abies lasiocarpa</i> species of plant

Abies lasiocarpa, commonly called the subalpine fir or Rocky Mountain fir, is a western North American fir tree.

<i>Abies veitchii</i> species of plant

Abies veitchii, also known as Veitch's silver-fir, is a fir native to Japan on the islands of Honshū and Shikoku. It lives in moist soils in cool wet mountain forests at elevations of 1500–2800 m. It is very shade-tolerant when young, but is not long-lived.

<i>Abies holophylla</i> species of plant

Abies holophylla, also called needle fir or Manchurian fir, is a species of fir native to mountainous regions of northern Korea, southern Ussuriland, and China in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning.

Abietoideae Subfamily of the conifer family Pinaceae

Abietoideae is a subfamily of the conifer family Pinaceae. The name is from the genus Abies (firs), which contains most of the species in the genus. Five genera are currently assigned to this subfamily: Abies, Cedrus, Keteleeria, Nothotsuga, and Pseudolarix.

<i>Picea schrenkiana</i> species of plant, Schrenks spruce

Picea schrenkiana, Schrenk's spruce, or Asian spruce, is a spruce native to the Tian Shan mountains of central Asia in western China (Xinjiang), Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. It grows at altitudes of 1,200–3,500 metres, usually in pure forests, sometimes mixed with the Tien Shan variety of Siberian fir. Its name was given in honour of Alexander von Schrenk (1816–1876).

<i>Abies delavayi</i> species of plant

Abies delavayi, the Delavay's silver-fir or Delavay's fir, is a species of fir, native to Yunnan in southwest China and adjoining border areas in southeastern Tibet, far northeastern India, northern Myanmar, and far northwestern Vietnam. It is a high altitude mountain tree, growing at elevations of 3,000–4,000 m, often occupying the tree line.

<i>Abies fabri</i> species of plant

Abies fabri is a conifer species in the family Pinaceae. It is endemic to Sichuan in western China, occurring on the sacred mountain of Emei Shan and westward to the Gongga Shan massif, growing at altitudes of 1,500–4,000 metres (4,900–13,100 ft).

<i>Abies kawakamii</i> species of plant

Abies kawakamii is a species of conifer in the Pinaceae family. It is found only in Taiwan. First described in 1908 by Bunzō Hayata as a variety of Abies mariesii, a high-mountain fir native to Japan; the next year it was elevated to species rank by Tokutarô Itô. Abies kawakamii is exclusively native to the island of Taiwan, and is one of the southernmost true firs. It is a high-mountain species occurring in northern and central Taiwan at elevations between 2400 and 3800 m in association with other temperate plants, dominantly conifers, including Juniperus formosana var. formosana, Tsuga formosana, and Juniperus morrisonicola.

<i>Abies nephrolepis</i> species of plant

Abies nephrolepis, commonly known as Khingan fir, is a species of fir native to northeastern China, North Korea, South Korea, and southeastern Russia.

<i>Epinotia radicana</i> species of insect

Epinotia radicana, the red-striped needleworm moth, is a species of moth of the Tortricidae family. It is found in western Canada, including British Columbia and the Alberta.

<i>Argyresthia fundella</i> species of insect

Argyresthia fundella is a moth of the family Yponomeutidae. It is found in most of Europe, except Ireland, Great Britain, the Iberian Peninsula, Finland, the Baltic region, Slovenia, Hungary and Greece.


  1. 1 2 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. 1 2 Seneta, Włodzimierz (1981). Drzewa i krzewy iglaste (Coniferous trees and shrubs) (in Polish) (1st ed.). Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe (PWN). ISBN   978-83-01-01663-0.
  3. Groth, Jacob (10 November 2000). "Monarch Migration Study". Swallowtail Farms. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  4. "Monarch Migration". Monarch Joint Venture. 2013.
  5. Schar, Douglas (2015). "Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii". Archives. Doctor Schar. Retrieved 2015-10-04.
  6. 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.