Pacific silver fir is a high-elevation tree that
can reach a height of 200 feet (60 meters). It is easily distinguished
from other high-elevation firs by its needles and unique bark.
Pacific silver fir has needles similar to grand fir, dark
with white lines underneath. But the needles point forward
and upward rather than lying flat like grand fir needles. Subalpine
fir and noble fir have white lines on
the upper and lower sides of the
The cones sit
upright on the
branch and turn from green to purple. Like other firs, the
fall apart at maturity, leaving a cone core spike on the branch. You won't find cones
on the ground, but you might see some of these scales:
Note that the short bracts are hidden inside the cone.
Young bark is
gray and smooth with resin blisters. Older bark breaks into gray, scaly
plates, distinguishing it from the furrowed bark on other native firs.
it grows: Pacific silver fir grows at
mid to higher elevations of the Cascades, in the Olympic
Mountains, and in a few locations in the Coast Range in Oregon and
Washington. It often
grows in pure stands of large
trees and sometimes near the timberline, mixed with subalpine fir and
mountain hemlock. It also grows in southeast Alaska, Vancouver Island
and along the coast of British Columbia.Like grand fir, Pacific silver
fir is more shade tolerant that our other native firs. Look for it
growing in the understory in stands of towering mountain hemlock.
people used the boughs for floor bedding, chewed the pitch as gum, and
used the wood for firewood. Today the wood is mostly
used as a source of pulp for making paper.
The common name
reflects the color of the lower surface of the needles and the silvery
bark. David Douglas named it amabilis,
which means "lovely." Other common names: White fir, red fir, lovely
fir, amabilis fir, and Cascades fir.