Conifers Garden - Online Conifer Nursery


Abies squamata

Abies squamata - Flaky fir, Paperbark fir
  • Abies squamata - Flaky fir, Paperbark fir  - Click to enlarge
  • Abies squamata branches - Click to enlarge
  • Abies squamata leaves - Click to enlarge


This product is currently out of stock

Product Information


Scientific name: Abies squamata  Masters  1906

Synonyms: -

Common names: Flaky fir, Paperbark fir (English), Linpi leng shan (Chinese)



Tree to 40 m tall, trunk to 1(-1.6) m in diameter. Bark purplish brown, soon peeling in thin, papery flakes (hence the common and scientific names, “scaly”) and ultimately becoming blocky. Branchlets densely hairy, prominently grooved between the leaf bases. Buds 4-6 mm long, covered with a thin, white resin that soon wears off. Needles on lower branches arranged predominantly to the sides, those on higher branches with seed cones pointing upward, (1-)1.5-3 cm long, green or bluish green above, the tips blunt or sharp or even prickle-tipped in young trees. Individual needles flat or a little plump in cross section and with a resin canal on either side of the midrib halfway out to the edge and well away from the lower epidermis but even farther from the upper one, with 3-7(-15) broken lines of stomates in the groove above near the tip and seven to nine lines in each white to greenish white stomatal band beneath. Pollen cones 2-3 cm long, purple. Seed cones oblong, 5-7(-8) cm long, 2-3(-4) cm across, violet when young, maturing violet brown to almost black. Bracts about as long as the slightly hairy seed scales and with their tips sticking up or down between them. Persistent cone axis swollen below the middle. Seed body 5-6 mm long, the wing a little longer. Cotyledons four or five.

South-central China from southern Gansu and southern Qinghai through Sichuan to southeastern Xizang (Tibet) and northern Yunnan. Forming pure stands or mixed with other conifers and hardwoods, predominantly in subalpine forest; (3,000)3,500-4,200(-4,500) m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable

This species was exploited in the past for its timber and it is estimated that there has been at least a 30% population reduction in the past three generations (150 years). It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

A subalpine species of the high mountains of western China, where it occurs between 3,500 m and 4,500 m asl (3,000-4,700 m according to Liu (1971)) making it one of the highest reaching mountain trees in the world. The soils are commonly grey-brown mountain podzols or lithosols. The climate is cold, relatively dry (arid in E Xizang), but usually perpetual snow at higher elevations provides sufficient moisture throughout the year. It is a constituent of mixed coniferous high-altitude forests, with among other species Abies recurvata, Abies fargesii var. faxoniana, Picea likiangensis var. rubescens, Picea asperata, Picea linzhiensis (in E Xizang), Larix potaninii and possibly also Tsuga forrestii. There are very few broad-leaved trees at these high elevations, Betula albosinensis and Betula utilis var. prattii being the most common.

At these high altitudes forests form isolated patches on favourable sites, surrounded by treeless subalpine vegetation. Direct exploitation of the timber in these forest remnants is easily unsustainable due to very slow growth and past exploitation has led to a decline of this and other conifer tree species in these forests.

Flaky fir is a potential timber tree but its occurrence at extremely high altitudes in inaccessible places prevents it from being exploited commercially. Ernest Wilson collected this fir with its peculiar bark in June 1904 in the Daxue Shan of western Sichuan, China, when on a plant hunting expedition for Veitch & Sons in England. Although it was successfully introduced in Europe and North America, it has remained rare in cultivation, restricted to a few collections in botanic gardens and arboreta, where it tends to be a slow grower. Its unusual bark has an attraction to dendrologists, but unless renewed seed collecting from wild sources can be resumed, this species may gradually disappear from horticulture.

The Government of China has recently imposed a logging ban in western China.



Abies squamata ’Flakey’



  • 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 CodeABIFW3LO18
Weight1.5 kg
Height15 - 20 cm

This field is required.