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Northwest Conifers

Firs – Abies

The firs are often called the "true firs" to distinguish them from Douglas Fir. The cones of the firs are perched on the top of the upper branches, and fall apart at maturity, leaving a cone core spike on the branch. So you won't find any fir cones lying under the trees unless a squirrel cut them loose and dropped them. The bark is smooth with resin blisters on younger stems and has furrows between smooth plates on larger trunks. The needles have an orderly, groomed look, usually flattened or curved  upwards.  All the needles of Northwest firs come to a point that is soft and not prickly. Finally, when the needles fall off, they leave round, flat scars on the twig. The scientific name of the genus is from the Latin abeo, which means "to rise."

Grand FirGrand Fir – Abies grandis

Needles:  1-2" long, flat & flattened on twig, white lines below

Cones: 3-4" long, upright at tree top, purple

Bark: Smooth, gray, small furrows on large trunks

Where: Below 5000 ft.

  

Noble FirNoble Fir – Abies procera

Needles: Bent like hockey sticks

Cones: 4-6" long, upright at tree top, whiskery bracts

Bark: Gray-brown scaly plates

Where: Above 2000 ft. in western Oregon and Washington

  

Pacific Silver FirPacific Silver Fir
 – Abies amabilis

Needles: Point up & forward, white lines below

Cones: 3-6" long, upright at treetop

Bark: Smooth, gray scaly plates

Where: Above 2000 ft. in western Oregon and Washington

  

Subalpine FirSubalpine Fir
 – Abies lasiocarpa

Needles: Curved upward, white lines above & below

Cones: 2-4" long, upright at tree top, purple

Bark: Smooth, gray

Where: Above 4000 ft.

  

Hybrids

Hybrids of these California firs grow in southwest Oregon.

Red FirRed Fir – Abies magnifica

Hybrid: Abies magnifica x procera

Needles: Bent like hockey sticks

Cones: 6-9" long, upright at treetop

Bark: Brown turning gray, furrowed

Where: Above 4500 ft. in southwest Oregon

  

White FirWhite Fir – Abies concolor

Hybrid: Abies concolor x grandis

Needles: 2", blue-gray, white lines on top and bottom

Cones: Upright on tree top, 3-5" 

Bark: Gray, furrowed

Where: Above 3000 ft. in southwest and eastern Oregon

  


© 2014 Ken Denniston