Subalpine fir

Silhouette - subalpine fir
  • Latin name: Abies lasiocarpa (Hook.) Nutt.
  • French name: Sapin subalpin
  • Synonym(s): Alpine fir
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 181830
Description

Leaves

  • Twig and needles - subalpine fir
  • Needle and needle cross section - subalpine fir

Form

  • Tip rounded or notched
  • Needles crowded, curving upward from the sides of the twig and standing almost erect
  • Those below appressed
  • Occasionally arranged in 2 ranks
  • Resin ducts large, remote from the surface

Length

  • 25–40 mm, length variable on the same twig

Colour

  • Greyish-green to light bluish-green
  • Lines of white dots, more prominent on the lower surface

Buds

  • Twig terminal - subalpine fir

Form

  • Broadly ovoid
  • Resinous

Length

  • 3–6 mm

Colour

  • Light brown

Twigs

Form

  • Stout
  • Becoming hairy, retaining hair for several years

Colour

  • Brownish becoming ash-grey

Seed cones (mature)

  • Cone scale; outer surface with bract (left), inner surface with winged seed (right), winged seed inner surface (below) - subalpine fir

Form

  • Erect, barrel-shaped
  • Resinous

Length

  • 4–10 cm

Colour

  • Greyish-brown

Structure

  • Scales wide
  • Bracts shorter than the scales, wide, with an abruptly pointed needle-shaped tip

Timing

  • Cones break up from early September
  • Bare axis remains on the tree for several years
  • Seeds abundant

Seeds

Form

  • Resinous
  • Seed wing firmly attached to seed coat

Length

  • Seed about 6 mm
  • Seed wing 10–18 mm

Colour

  • Purple to brown

Bark

Form

  • Smooth
  • Blotched with raised resin blisters when young
  • With age, breaking into irregular scales

Colour

  • Ash-grey when young, becoming greyish-brown with age

Wood

Texture

  • Light, soft, relatively weak
  • Odourless

Colour

  • Pale

Morphology

  • No distinct heartwood

Uses

  • Wood pulp, lumber

Size

Height

  • To 30 m
  • May be shrubby on exposed ridges at the tree line

Diameter

  • To 75 cm

Maximum age

  • 200 years

Tree form

  • Silhouette - subalpine fir

Open-grown

Crown

  • Lower branches sometimes touching the ground

Forest-grown

Trunk

  • Cylindrical

Crown

  • Narrow, dense, with a spire-like top
  • Branches short, drooping

Root system

  • Shallow, wide-spreading

Habitat

Site

  • High-altitude tree (600–2000 m) in southern part of range
  • Uncommon near the Pacific Coast
  • Found on a variety of soils
  • Frequently colonizes newly exposed ground
  • Capable of reproducing on humus layers under a forest cover

Light tolerance

  • Shade-tolerant

Associated species

  • Exists in pure stands or mixed with Engelmann spruce, mountain hemlock, subalpine larch, lodgepole pine, white birch, and trembling aspen

Range

Central British Columbia, western Alberta, northward into Yukon

Insects and diseases

Insects and diseases that are found most frequently and/or that cause the most damage in our Canadian forests.

Photos
  • Subalpine fir
  • Subalpine fir
  • Subalpine fir
Distribution map
Distribution map - subalpine fir
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