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Abies nebrodensis

Abies nebrodensis
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Product Information


Scientific name: Abies nebrodensis  (Lojac.) Mattei  1908

Synonyms: Abies alba subsp. nebrodensis (Mattei) Nitz., Abies alba var. nebrodensis (Lojac.) Svoboda, Abies pectinata Guss., Abies pectinata var. nebrodensis Lojac.

Common names: Sicilian fir, Nebrodi fir (English), Abete dei Nèbrodi (Italian)



Tree to 15 m tall, with trunk to 0.6 m in diameter. Bark light gray, becoming scaly with age and ultimately slightly furrowed at the base. Branchlets without hairs, slightly grooved between the leaf bases. Buds 4-5(-9) mm long, not prominently resinous. Needles stiff, arranged straight out to the sides and above the twigs but with a gap beneath them, 8-15(-20) mm long, bright, shiny green above, the tip blunt to prickly. Individual needles plump in cross section and with a small resin canal on either side near the edge, just inside the lower epidermis, without or with a few broken lines of stomates near the tip above and with 6-11 rows of stomates in each broad stomatal band beneath. Pollen cones 15-20 mm long, purple. Seed cones cylindrical, 7-12(-20) cm long, 3-4(-5) cm across, green when young, maturing yellowish brown. Bracts about as long as the minutely hairy seed scales, sticking out between them, and bent down over them. Persistent cone axis narrowly conical. Seed body (6-)8-10(-12) mm long, the wing a little longer.

Mountains of northern Sicily and perhaps the toe of Italy. Once forming pure forests or mixed with Black pine (Pinus nigra) and other trees and shrubs at its lower limit; (700-)1,400-1,600(-2,000) m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered

This tree is restricted to the Madonie Mountains in the north-central part of Sicily, Italy. There are 32 adult trees in the current population. This very small population size means that it still meets the criteria for listing as Critically Endangered.

Despite its scientific name, the Sicilian fir (Abies nebrodensis) does not grow in the Nebrodi Mountains, but is presently limited to the steep, dry slopes between Vallone Madonna degli Angeli, Mt. Scalone, Mt. Pene and Mt. Cavallo, in the territory of the Municipality of Polizzi Generosa in the Madonie Mountains in the north-central part of Sicily. Conservation reafforestation activities have extended the distribution of this species between 700 to 2,000 m asl.

The Madonie Mountains, rising to 1,979 m, were once covered by Abies nebrodensis. By 1900, the species was considered extinct, due to extensive logging and erosion, but was rediscovered in 1957. The current population consists of 25 fertile trees out of 32 adult trees, and about 155 young plants and conservation reafforestation is increasing the number of individuals. The principal threat facing this species is the small population size. It will continue to be dependent on on-going conservation measures, especially fire suppression and habitat improvement.

The species grows up to around 2,000 m altitude on bare soils mostly deriving from quartzitic sandstones. The habitat, characterized by the species presence is listed within Annex I of the Habitats Directive (9220: Apennine beech forests with Abies alba and beech forests with Abies nebrodensis) (EUNIS 2016).

The tree is not currently utilised, but was subject in the past to logging. The tree has been assessed as CR both nationally and globally. The species is included in Appendix I of the Bern Convention and as a priority species in Annexes II and IV of the Habitats Directive. The woodland vegetation in which this species is found is listed in Annex I of the same Directive.

The species occurs within the following Natura 2000 sites (EUNIS 2016):

  • ITA020004 Monte S. Salvatore, Monte Catarineci, Vallone Mandarini, ambienti umidi (under the Habitats Directive).
  • ITA020050 Parco delle Madonie (under the Birds Directive).

The species has been the focus of both in situ and ex situ conservation efforts:

  • In situ: An EU LIFE funded project was undertaken from 2001-2005 (Raimondo and Schicchi 2005, Silva et al. 2008), followed by a nationally funded (Interministerial Committee for Economic Planning; CIPE) project (Conservation of Abies nebrodensis and peatlands of Geraci Siculo). The immediate aim of the LIFE project was to stabilize the existing population and improve the survival rate of natural seedlings and planted trees raised as part of an ex situ programme. Wider aims included the elimination of non-indigenous fir species and the restoration of the natural ecosystem. All work has been carried out within the boundaries of the Madonie Regional Park. The number of trees has increased from 24 to 32, while natural seedlings have increased from 30 to 155. These are still immature.
  • Ex situ: An extensive ex situ programme has been in place for a number of years with trees planted in the Botanical Garden of Palermo (Italy) as well as in summer villas and second homes in the Madonie Mountains, slightly apart from their natural area of distribution. They have also been distributed to other botanic gardens and arboreta in Europe. A programme of controlled pollination instigated as part of the EU LIFE funded project has resulted in the production of an additional 3,000 plants for reinforcing the existing population.



Abies nebrodensis ’French Hybrid‘   
Abies nebrodensis ’Sicilian Gold’



  • 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 CodeABIJ9DMT37
Weight1.5 kg
Height15 - 20 cm

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