Pinaceae (Pine Family)
At maturity this is a small, 30-50 ft., spire-like evergreen with stiff, horizontal limbs branched to the ground. Pale, bluish-green needles and grayish or chalk-white bark are distinguishing characteristics. Its smooth, upright cones are brilliant purple until maturity. The most widespread western true fir, with dense, long-pointed, spirelike crown and rows of horizontal branches reaching nearly to base; shrubby at timberline.
The spires of Subalpine Fir add beauty to the Rocky Mountain peaks. When weighted down to the ground with snow, the lowest branches sometimes take root, forming new shoots. The bark of this and related firs is browsed by deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and moose; the leaves are eaten by grouse, and the seeds are consumed by songbirds and mammals. The scientific name, meaning hairy-fruited, refers to the cones. Corkbark Fir (var. arizonica (Merriam) Lemm.), a variety from Arizona to Colorado, has thin, whitish, corky bark. Some authorities consider the variety lasiocarpa ((Hook.) Nutt.) as a separate species, A. bifolia.
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Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Retention: Evergreen Leaf Complexity: Simple Leaf Shape:
Linear Breeding System:
, Monoecious Fruit Type:
Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Time: Apr , May
, WY Canada: AB
, YT Native Distribution:
Yukon & s. AK,
s. to NM
& AZ Native Habitat:
Mts. above 8000 ft.
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Medium Light Requirement:
Sun , Part Shade , Shade Soil Moisture:
Moist Soil pH:
Acidic (pH<6.8) CaCO3 Tolerance:
Low Soil Description:
Moist to dry, gravelly or sandy loams. Conditions Comments:
Subalpine fir is disease and insect resistant. It fir has been extensively collected in the wild at great detriment to the species and its native
habitat. Verify that commercially available plants are nursery grown. Aibes lasiocarpa var. arizonica is considered more ornamental but less hardy than the species.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Provides valuable cover for birds and small mammals.
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Last Update: 2007-01-01