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Abies cephalonica

Abies cephalonica - Grecian fir, Greek fir, Apollo fir, Kukunaria, Elate
  • Abies cephalonica - Grecian fir, Greek fir, Apollo fir, Kukunaria, Elate - Click to enlarge
  • Abies cephalonica branches - Click to enlarge
  • Abies cephalonica leaves - Click to enlarge


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Product Information


Scientific name: Abies cephalonica  Loudon  1838

Synonyms: Abies acicularis Maxim. ex Lavallée, Abies alba subsp. cephalonica (Loudon) K.Richt., Abies alba var. cephalonica (Loudon) Richt., Abies apollinis Link, Abies heterophylla K.Koch, Abies luscombeana Loudon, Abies panachaica Heldr., Abies peloponnesiaca Haage ex K.Koch, Abies peloponnesica Haage ex Heldr., Abies reginae-amaliae Heldr., Picea apollinis (Link) Rauch. ex Gordon, Picea cephalonica (Loudon) Loudon, Picea panachaica Heldr. ex Carrière

Common names: Greek fir, Grecian fir, Apollo fir (English), Kukunaria, Elate (Greek)



Tree to 30 m tall, with trunk to 1(-2) m in diameter. Bark grayish brown, becoming furrowed with age. Branchlets not hairy, prominently grooved between the leaf bases. Buds 4.5-7 mm long, not resinous. Needles arranged straight out all around the twigs or twisting to point upward, (1.5-)1.8-3(-3.5) cm long, shiny dark green above, the tips variably pointed, often prickly. Individual needles flat or plumpish in cross section and with a resin canal on either side near the edge just inside the lower epidermis or well away from it, with only a few stomates near the tip or with up to seven lines of stomates in the groove above and with 6-8(-10) lines in each white stomatal band beneath. Pollen cones 12-18 mm long, purplish red. Seed cones cylindrical, (10-)12-16 cm long, (3.5-)4-5 cm across, brownish green when young, maturing reddish brown. Bracts longer than the seed scales and bent back over them, sometimes almost covering them. Persistent cone axis narrowly conical. Seed body 6.5-9 mm long, the wing up to 1.5 times as long. Cotyledons five to seven.

Mountains of Greece. Forming pure stands or mixed with black pine (Pinus nigra) at higher elevations and with other species near its lower limit; (600-)900-1,600(-2,100) m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

Although a decrease in the population of the Greek fir (Abies cephalonica) has been reported during the last five decades, latterly mainly due to summer wild-fires, nevertheless the species has a widespread distribution in Greece. It is recorded from 11 main locations and typically most of these contain extensive stands. For example, in Mt. Ainos National Park it covers an area of 28,620 km² and this size of forest is quite typical for many other locations. Even though it is highly likely that there will be further loss of forest, especially as a result of summer wild-fires, it is thought that this will not be sufficient to warrant the species to be assessed against a category of threat in the foreseeable future. It has therefore been assessed as Least Concern.

Abies cephalonica is found between 400 and 1,800 m and rarely up to 2,000 m or more. It grows in pure stands, or occasionally with Juniperus oxycedrus, usually at higher elevations, while at lower elevations can be found in association with Fagus orientalis, Quercus spp, Castanea sativa and Pinus nigra. The Greek fir grows on soils derived from a variety of parent materials such as limestone, dolomites, shale, serpentine, sandstone, mica-schist and argillic-schist with pH ranging from 5 to 8.

Abies cephalonica has a widespread distribution and is abundant where it occurs. Historically it has been subject to human pressures for thousands of years, the impacts of which are visible in the condition of some of Greek fir forests today. Grazing, woodcutting, agriculture, hunting and fires are the main factors causing the degradation of natural ecosystems and including drought-related extreme periods, infestation of mistletoe, pathogens or insects.

The greatest current-day threat is from fire to which the species is not adapted and in recent years several fires have destroyed important stands. For example, in 2007 the fire in the Mt. Parnitha National Park caused the loss of 2,080 ha and the loss of 4,500 ha in Mount Taygetos. The firs at this location also show signs of stress and dieback which is thought to be caused by air pollution. In 2000 the first of Greece's 'megafires' destroyed a large area of Abies cephalonica on Mt. Mainalon which contained one of the most extensive and developed forest of the Greek fir. Post-fire observations of these forest fires has noted little or no regeneration of Abies cephalonica.

Current local use is probably limited, the timber of this tree was used in the past for construction. Alizoti et al. (2011) report the use of the species as an ornamental tree and cultivation in plantations for use as Christmas trees, and note its potential as an alternative to Silver fir (Abies alba) for reforestation in other parts of Europe as it is less water demanding.

It is afforded protection in a number of national parks including; Cephalonia N.P., Mt. Parnassos N.P. and Mt. Oeti N.P. In all of these National Parks it forms extensive forests and the sub-populations are considered to be stable. However, the population in the Mt. Parnitha National Park was reduced by 2,180 ha in 2007 due to fire.



Abies cephalonica ’Aurea’
Abies cephalonica ’Aureovariegata’
Abies cephalonica ’Barabits Gold’
Abies cephalonica ’Greg’s Broom’
Abies cephalonica ’Meyer’s Dwarf’
Abies cephalonica ’Nana’
Abies cephalonica ’Pyramidalis’
Abies cephalonica ’Rubiginosa’
Abies cephalonica ’Robusta’



  • Farjon, A. (2010). A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
  • Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland.
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Cambridge, UK /Gland, Switzerland

Copyright © Aljos Farjon, James E. Eckenwalder, IUCN, Conifers Garden. All rights reserved.

Product CodeABIHI6NN91
Weight1.5 kg
Height15 - 20 cm

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