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Abies lasiocarpa

Abies lasiocarpa
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Product Information

Scientific name: Abies lasiocarpa   (Hooker) Nuttall   1849

Synonims: Abies amabilis Parl., Abies balsamea f. compacta (Beissn.) B.Boivin, Abies bifolia A.Murray bis, Abies concolor var. lasiocarpa (Hook.) Beissn., Abies grandis var. lasiocarpa (Hook.) Lavallée, Abies lasciocarpa Sarg., Abies subalpina Engelm., Picea bifolia A.Murray bis, Picea lasiocarpa (Hook.) A.Murray bis, Pinus lasiocarpa Hook.

Common names: Subalpine fir, Alpine fir, Balsam fir, White fir, Mountain Balsam fir, White balsam, Western Balsam fir, Rocky Mountain fir



Tree to 30(-40) m tall, with trunk to 1.2(-2) m in diameter. Bark reddish to dark gray when young, soon breaking up into scales or becoming thick and corky with age in the southern Rocky Mountains. Branchlets reddish brown, hairy, finely, finely grooved between the leaf attachments. Buds 3-6 mm long, resinous at the tips or overall. Needles arranged all around the twigs but turned to the sides and above on both upper and lower branches, (1-)1.5-2.5(-3) cm long, light green or bluish green with wax above, the tips notched or rounded. Pollen cones 13-20 mm long, greenish purple. Seed cones cylindrical, (5-)7-10(-12) cm long, (2-)3-4 cm across, dull purple when young, maturing purplish brown. Seed body 5-7 cm long, the wing up to about twice as long.

Widespread in western North America, from eastern Alaska and the southern Yukon to northwestern California, southeastern Arizona, and southwestern New Mexico. Growing with other conifers such as Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), in subalpine forests; (600-)1,500-2,700(-3,650) m. The climate is everywhere cold, but humid in the NW and dry in the S of its range, precipitation varies between 500 mm and 3,000 mm annually.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

This is the most widespread fir, after Abies balsamea, in North America. It is largely confined to high altitudes at the temperate latitudes and of little use as a timber tree. The very large extent of occurrence and large population mean that it is assessed as Least Concern. The variety arizonica is also assessed as Least Concern although it occurs in scattered subpopulations of limited area of occupancy in the southernmost part of the range of the species. It forms usually very open stands with solitary or clustered trees, often mixed with Tsuga mertensiana in the NW and with Picea engelmannii in most of the Rocky Mountains. Other conifers are mainly Pinus spp., and also Abies spp. in the Pacific Northwest. Alpine meadows typically occur between the clumps of conifers. No specific threats have been identified for this species: increased fire frequencies and overgrazing by livestock are potential threats. Although it naturally grows into the perfect Christmas tree shape, it is rarely used as such, because it grows slowly and cutting it from its habitat is environmentally destructive. It is also little used in horticulture (except perhaps cultivars derived from var. arizonica) for taking it into the lowlands of temperate regions usually exposes it to damage from 'late' frosts. Many subpopulations occur in protected areas.



  • 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 CodeABIF0TE917

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