Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Abies lasiocarpa

Subalpine fir

Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Abies lasiocarpa (Subalpine fir)
Beckers, Eric
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 Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Cone
Leaf: Green
Size Class: 36-72 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AK , AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , NV , NM , OR , UT , WA , WY
Canada: AB , BC , YT
Native Distribution: Yukon & s. AK, s. to NM & AZ
Native Habitat: Mts. above 8000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water 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.


Use Wildlife: Provides valuable cover for birds and small mammals.
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds

Last Update: 2015-05-06