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Abies hickelii

Abies hickelii - Hickel's fir, Hickel fir, Oyamel, Pinabete


Scientific name: Abies hickelii Florus & H. Gaussen  1932

Synonyms: Abies hickelii var. hickelii, Abies religiosa subsp. hickelii (Flous & Gaussen) Strandby, K.I.Chr. & M.Sørensen

Infraspecific taxa: Abies hickelii var. macrocarpa Martínez 1942

Common names: Hickel's fir, Hickel fir (English), Oyamel, Pinabete (Spanish)



Tree to 30 m tall, with trunk to 1 m in diameter. Bark gray, darkening and breaking up into blocks with age. Branchlets with transient long hairs in the deep grooves between the leaf bases. Buds 4-5 mm long, covered with thick, yellow resin. Needles thinly or thickly arranged to the sides of the twigs, (1-)2-3.5(-6) cm long, shiny bright green or yellowish green above, the tip notched to bluntly pointed. Individual needles flat in cross section and with (two or) three or four (to six) resin canals scattered around the periphery on either side, touching the lower epidermis but a little inside of the upper epidermis, without or with a few broken lines of stomates near the tip above and with seven to nine lines of stomates in each grayish green stomatal band beneath. Pollen cones 10-15 mm long, red. Seed cones elongate egg-shaped, 6-8(-12) cm long, (2.5-)3.5-4(-5) cm across, purple or green when young, maturing brown. Bracts usually a little longer than the hairy seed scales, and the broad, triangular tip sticking out and up between them. Persistent cone axis narrowly conical. Seed body 6-8(-11) mm long, the wing a little shorter to a little longer. Cotyledons five or six.

The species name honors Paul Robert Hickel (1865 - 1935), a French dendrologist who published on Abies, not on the Mexican species.

Southern Mexico, primarily in Oaxaca and Chiapas, with outliers in Guerrero, Hidalgo, and Veracruz. Forming pure stands near the top of its elevational range or mixed with pine (Pinus), oak (Quercus), and other conifers and hardwoods on mountain slopes; 2,500-3,000 m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered

This taxon is known from a limited number of locations (data are insufficient to give an estimate of the number) and it is thought to be in continuous decline due to logging and general deforestation in the region. Its area of occupancy is certainly less than 500 km² (estimated at 80 km² but based on incomplete records) and it would thus qualify under criterion B2 for Endangered.

Both varieties of this species occur in high mountains of sub-tropical southern Mexico, at elevations between 2,500 m and 3,000 m a.s.l. The soils are of volcanic origin. The climate is cool, moist oceanic, with rain mostly in the winter. There are some pure stands at the highest elevations, but this species is usually mixed with highland pines, e.g. Pinus montezumae, Pinus pseudostrobus, Pinus ayacahuite, and Pinus patula, and also with Cupressus lusitanica and Quercus spp. Shrubs are e.g. Vaccinium spp., Andromeda spp., Ribes spp. and Fuchsia spp.

Logging may have some impact on this taxon, but data to evaluate this quantitatively are lacking. For the 1998 Conifer Specialist Group assessment it was assumed that a 20% decline had occurred over the duration of three generations (about a century). Deforestation in the region is an ongoing process, which affects Abies as a late successional tree more than e.g. Pinus, so it is considered that the decline is continuing.

Hickel's fir is a rare species and its two varieties occur in more or less disjunct, limited stands. Exploitation for timber is minor and its use is local, mainly worked in sawmills for domestic purposes. In cultivation it is extremely rare and limited to some dendrological collections in countries with mild climate, e.g. southern France.

More forest reserves with effective management and policing would be required to protect this variety from decline.


Cultivars: -



  • 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.

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