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Abies concolor (Balsam fir) | NPIN
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Abies concolor (Balsam fir)
Flaigg, Norman G.

Abies concolor

Balsam fir, Colorado fir, Concolor fir, Oyamel de California, Silver fir, White balsam, White fir

Pinaceae (Pine Family)

USDA Symbol: abco

USDA Native Status:

Symetrically conical in youth, this evergreen becomes more irregular and rounded with age. It grows to a height of 50-150 ft. Lower branches extend to ground when open-grown but when crowded, half or more of the trunk is bare. Needles are silvery blue-green and 2-3 in. long – the longest of any fir. White fir derives its name from its silvery-white bark. Very large fir, widespread in western mountains, with narrow, pointed crown of short, symmetrical, horizontal branches; 2 geographic varieties.

Rocky Mountain White Fir (var. concolor), of the Rocky Mountain region, grows in the warmest and driest climate of all native firs. California White Fir (var. lowiana (Gord.) Lemm.), the Pacific Coast variety, is grown for ornament, shade, and Christmas trees. The scientific name, meaning of uniform color, refers to both needle surfaces.

 

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Leaf Margin: Entire
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Size Notes: Height 60-100 feet, spread 40-60 feet.
Leaf: Yellowish-green to bluish-green in young trees turning whitish with age.
Flower:
Fruit: Cones purplish, olive-green or dark yellowish-green. Cylindrical, 2 to 5 1/2 inches long.
Size Class: 36-72 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun

Distribution

USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MA , ME , NM , NV , OR , UT , WY
Native Distribution: S.w. ID & s.e. OR, w. to mts. of c. CO, & s. to s. CA, AZ & NM
Native Habitat: Arid mt. areas; dry slopes; rocky places

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained, gravelly or sandy-loam soils.
Conditions Comments: Western white fir transplants readily and is drought- & cold- tolerant. It will adapt to most soils, except heavy clay. Under good conditions, 1 to 1 1/2 ft. of growth can be expected per season, but this is generally a very slow-growing tree. It tolerates light shade and has no serious disease and insect problems. This species benefits from the protection of a mother plant the first 10 years.

Benefit

Use Wildlife: The winged seeds of this and other firs are eaten by songbirds and various mammals, especially squirrels and chipmunks. Deer and grouse feed on the foliage; porcupines gnaw the bark.
Use Other: Wood used for paper pulp and general lumber for building construction.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds

Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds , Softwood Cuttings
Description: Seed is the easiest method of propagation. In nature, Abies seeds often germinate on melting snow fields. Cuttings should be taken from December through March and seem to root best if treated with hormone.
Seed Collection: Cone scales bear two seeds at the base. Mature seed has a large wing and is ovoid to oblong. Seeds can be damaged easily. Seeds store best in a dry, cool environment.
Seed Treatment: Stratify seeds 1 1/2 months.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Pruning is not necessary.

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Columnar evergreen for Colorado
July 04, 2008
I am looking for an evergreen 6-8 (or more) feet tall, very columnar; 3 feet spread in diameter, zone 5, full sun, dark green, clayish-OK soil. Thank you so much!
view the full question and answer

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA

Recommended Species Lists

Find native plant species by state. Each list contains commercially available species suitable for gardens and planned landscapes. Once you have selected a collection, you can browse the collection or search within it using the combination search.

View Recommended Species page

Additional resources

USDA: Find Abies concolor in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Abies concolor in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Abies concolor

Metadata

Record Modified: 2007-01-01
Research By: TWC Staff

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