Abies lasiocarpa - Subalpine Fir

"Abies lasiocarpa is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan, and the seeds ripen in September. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind."
"Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil."[PFAF]


Status: Native.[E-flora]
General: "Usually straight tree, seldom over 35 m tall (up to 50 m in some areas), with distinctly spire-shaped crown; bark grey, smooth, with resin blisters, becoming somewhat ridged with age; branches not spray-like; a common tree-line species, in stunted form." [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: "Needles flattened, blunt and usually notched at the tip; bluish-green, flat above, ridged beneath, having stomata on both sufaces; (2) 2.5-3 (4) cm long, tending to curve upwards, not horizontally spreading." [IFBC-E-flora]
Cones: "Seed cones erect, deep purple, 6-10 (11) cm long, 3-3.5 cm thick, the bracts deciduous; pollen cones bluish. Note: In the recently published Flora of North America, Hunt (1993) recognized Abies lasiocarpa as occurring only along the coast with the interior populations assigned to Abies bifolia. Differences between the two occur in the wood chemistry, lack of crystals in ray parenchyma in A. bifolia, shape of basal bud scales, and color of the periderm. However, introgression occurs throughout most of BC, thus hybrid populations predominate. The only unique populations of A. lasiocarpa are in coastal Alaska. Due to the introgression in BC and the relatively minor morphological differences between the two taxa, we include A. bifolia within A. lasiocarpa." [IFBC-E-flora]

Habitat / Range "Moist to mesic slopes in the montane to alpine zones; common in BC in and E of Coast-Cascade Mountains, locally frequent on Vancouver Island; N to S AK and YT, E to SW AB and S to OR, N NV, AZ and NM." [IFBC-E-flora]

Blooming Period: Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall [USDA-E-flora]

Ecological Indicator Information

"A shade-tolerant to shade-intolerant, montane to subalpine, Western North American evergreen conifer distributed less in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs predominantly in continental boreal climates; its occurrence increases with both elevation and continentality. Grows in mixed -species stands (usually with Engelmann spruce, Pacific silver fir, or mountain hemlock) on leeward slopes of Vancouver Island and Coastal Mountain Ranges. There are occasional pure stands at high elevations on exposed outcrops of base-rich rocks, or on valley bottoms affected by cold air drainage. On sites where it is shade-tolerant, it regenerates under closed-canopy stands, particularly on mycorrhizal Mors. (The mycorrhizae here may explain its tolerance of nutrient-poor soils.) Most productive on montane, fresh to moist, nutrient-rich (seepage) sites within wet cool temperate climates. Characteristic of continental boreal forests.[IPBC]" [E-flora]


Antiseptic, Chest-Cold, Cold, Fever, Hair-Oil, Infection, Poultice, Rash, Skin, Sore, Wound [Duke]

"The Crow, who inhabited parts of Montana and Wyoming, burned the twigs and leaves of this species for incense purposes (Uphof 1968) and during certain ceremonies (Blankinship 1905). The Blackfoot, also of Montana and parts of Canada, inhaled the smoke from smudges made with the needles to treat headaches, to help an unconscious person recover, and to treat tuberculosis (Hellson 1974). It was also used as a fumigant for people whose faces had swollen because of venereal diseases and to help sick horses. The Cheyenne of Montana and Oklahoma burned the needles as incense when people were frightened of thunder (Hart 1981). They considered the aromatic smoke useful for chasing away bad influences. The Nez Perce of Idaho, Oregon, and other parts of the United States burned the boughs as incense in sweathouses (Hart 1996). The Native Americans of the Rocky Mountain area of the United States burned the twigs and leaves for smoke that was used for unspecified purposes (Usher 1974)." [UAPDS]


"Prefers a good moist but not water-logged soil[1]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Very shade tolerant, especially when young, but growth is slower in dense shade[81]. Intolerant of atmospheric pollution[1]. Prefers slightly acid conditions down to a pH of about 5[200]. Prefers growing on a north-facing slope[200]. Occasionally planted for timber in N. Europe[50] but this species does not thrive in Britain[11]. It is a very cold-hardy tree but the milder winters of this country make it susceptible to damage by aphis and late frosts[1, 11, 81]. The sub-species A. lasiocarpa arizonica. (Merriam.)Lemmon. is growing somewhat better here[185]. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm in height. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance[200]. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly[200]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[200]. The crushed foliage has a balsam aroma[185]." [PFAF]

"Seed - sow early February in a greenhouse or outdoors in March[78]. Germination is often poor, usually taking about 6 - 8 weeks[78]. Stratification is said to produce a more even germination so it is probably best to sow the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn[80, 113]. The seed remains viable for up to 5 years if it is well stored[113]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on for at least their first winter in pots. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Alternatively, if you have sufficient seed, it is possible to sow in an outdoor seedbed. One report says that it is best to grow the seedlings on in the shade at a density of about 550 plants per square metre[78] whilst another report says that they are best grown on in a sunny position[80]." [PFAF]

A. subalpina. Pinus lasiocarpa. [PFAF]


  1. [Duke]http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/duke/ethnobot.pl?Abies%20lasiocarpa Accessed Dec 23, 2014
  2. [E-flora]http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Abies lasiocarpa&redblue=Both&lifeform=1, Accessed Jan 12, 2015
  3. [PFAF.org] - http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Abies+lasiocarpa Material obtained from Plants For A Future Database. Accessed Jan 12, 2015

Page last modified on Saturday, January 20, 2018 3:33 PM