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Abies pinsapo var. marocana

Abies pinsapo var. marocana
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Product Information


Scientific name: Abies pinsapo var. marocana  (Trab.) Ceballos & Bolaño  1928

Synonyms: Abies marocana Trab., Abies pinsapo subsp. marocana (Trab.) Emb. & Maire, Picea marocana (Trab.) Trab.

Common names: Moroccan fir, Rif fir (English), Sapin du Maroc (French)



Trees to 25-30 m tall, but most trees in nature smaller, d.b.h. to 1-1.5 m. Trunk monopodial, straight, columnar and terete in sheltered trees, but often twisted and forked, crown in young trees narrowly conical, old trees irregular, open or dense. Bark of young trees smooth, dark grey, in old trees rough and scaly. Branches of first order long, curved downward, the ones near the top ascending, branches of second order dense, spreading horizontally and ascending. Branchlets stout, very firm, reddish brown or greenish brown, turning grey, faintly ridged between the leaves, glabrous, leaf scars circular or angular, large, purplish grey. Bud scales loose, smooth-edged, resinous. Leaves spirally arranged, spreading radially and perpendicularly from shoots, less pectinate, the upper leaves often recurved, in shaded shoots the lower leaves somewhat pectinate, 0.6-2 cm long, 2-3 mm wide, not or only slightly twisted at base, linear-ligulate, carinate or slightly flattened, rigid, grey-green or glaucous green. Apex acute to acuminate. Stomata above in several rows, below in two bands separated by a midrib and bordered by broad margins. Resin canals 2, marginal, of small to medium size. Pollen cones lateral, crowded, 0.5-0.7 cm long, yellowish with red or violet microsporophylls. Seed cones lateral, erect, short pedunculate, cylindrical, with obtuse, often papilliform apex, 10-18 cm long, 3.5-5 cm wide, greenish purple when immature, becoming dark or light brown when ripe, cone rachis persistent, narrowly conical, purplish brown. Seed scales cyathiform or cuneate-flabellate, length × width at mid-cone 2.5-2.8 × 2.2-2.5 cm. Surface smooth, slightly striated, yellowish pubescent on exposed parts, upper margin entire, somewhat undulate, incurved; base long pedicellate. Bracts oblong, apex obcordate, with a tiny cusp, 1-1.3 cm long, entirely included. Seeds cuneate-oblong, 8-10 mm long, light brown; seed wings cuneate-oblong, 13-20 mm long, light brown.

This variety is restricted to a small part of the Rif mountains in northern Morocco. The main stands are almost contiguous on the mountains of Sfiha Tell, Tissouka, Lakraa, Talassemtane, Bouslimane, Taloussisse, Fahs and Kharbouch; 1,400-2,100 m.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered

Abies pinsapo var. marocana currently has a very limited distribution and is threatened by fires, forest clearance and habitat degradation. It has also undergone a significant decline in the recent past. While the extent of occurrence (EOO) is less than the 100 km² threshold for Critically Endangered, there are two locations and the remaining subpopulations are not severely fragmented within the context of the most recent IUCN guidelines (IUCN 2010). The estimated area of occupancy (AOO) is 28 km².  The population declined by approximately 70% between 1938 and 1994 due to logging, fires and forest clearance. This species is therefore listed as Endangered.

Abies pinsapo var. marocana occurs in the Mediterranean humid bioclimatic zone. The average annual rainfall is 1,500 mm, increasing to 1,900 mm at an altitude of 1,700 m. Stands are typically found on north facing dolomitic limestone slopes of mountain ridges. The optimal altitudinal range is between 1,400 and 1,800 m, where the main tree associates are Acer granatense, Quercus faginea, Quercus ilex, Quercus rotundifolia, Ilex aquifolium and Taxus baccata. Associated ground flora include Hedera maroccana, Euphorbia characias, Digitalis purpurea var. maurtanica and Paeonia coriacea. Between 1,800 and 2,000 m Abies occurs with Cedrus atlantica, Pinus nigra and Pinus pinaster.  Above 2,000 m the mountain summits are typically dominated by xerophytic species including Berberis hispanica, Bupleurum spinosum and Rosa micrantha, other species include Crataegus laciniata, Rosa micrantha, Rubus ulmifolius and Viburnum tinus.

Moroccan fir underwent a 70% decline between 1938 and 1994 due to logging, fires and forest clearance associated with an increasing rural population, an expansion of agriculture and the cultivation of cannabis. Although the remaining stands are within a National Park, deforestation associated with cannabis cultivation in the areas surrounding the fir stands remains a problem.

The timber of the Moroccan fir has been used in house construction. Essential oils obtained from the seeds of this species are used in Moroccan folk medicine to treat respiratory complaints. The high proportion of limonene recently discovered in the oil means that there is potential interest for the perfumes industry.

A study conducted by the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture through the Administration des Eaux et Forêts et Conservation des Sols (AEFCS, 1996) and funded by the Banque Africaine du Développement resulted in the creation of the 60,000 ha Talassemtane Natural Park to protect the remaining areas of Moroccan fir (Haut Commmissariat aux Eaux et Forêt et á la Lutte contre la Désertification 2004). In 2006 Talassemtane Natural Park was included within the first UNESCO Intercontinental Mediterranean Biosphere Reserve.


Varieties: -



  • 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 CodeABI19V4L52
Weight1.5 kg
Height20 - 25 cm

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