Tree Spotlight: Abies amabilis


Abies amabilis

Trade Name: Pacific silver fir

General Distribution: Extreme southeastern Alaska through western British Columbia; Cascade region of Washington and Oregon; northwestern California; Olympic Mountains of Washington.

Wood Value: Soft, weak, light in weight and color and has little odor or resin. The most common uses are for light construction frames, subfloor, construction plywood, sheaths, container veneer and pulpwood. As a “white” wood, it’s a major export to Japan for business construction. It’s also used for Christmas trees and decorative greenery.

Family: Pinaceae

Other uses and values: Is grown as an ornamental and is a major component of recreational and wilderness areas.

General Botanical Characteristics

  • A monoecious, long-lived, native conifer.
  • Can reach heights of 100 to 230 feet and diameters of 36 to 44 inches.
  • The average maximum age is 400 to 500 years on good sites and 250 to 350 years on adverse sites.
  • The maximum recorded age is 540 years.
  • The crown is rigid and symmetrical with lateral branches perpendicular to the stem.
  • Young trees have resin-filled blisters protruding from the smooth, thin bark.
  • The bark of older trees is rough textured and flaky.
  • The needles grow from opposite sides of the branch, spreading horizontally or brushed forward.
  • The top is flat, grooved and lustrous green and the underside is stomatiferous and silvery white.
  • Has a second type of foliage on the uppermost, cone-bearing branches. These needles are sharp and curved. The cones are stiffly erect, barrel shaped and 3.5 to 6 inches long.

Management Considerations

  • At lower elevations in the Pacific silver fir zone, it usually sun scalds when used as leave tree in shelterwood cuttings.
  • Sudden exposure to sunlight temporarily reduces growth.
  • Herbicides have various effects (check with the product manufacturer).
  • Wounds result in wetwood, circular or radial shake, and frost cracks. Is among those species that are most seriously affected by annosus root disease.
  • After being weakened by annosus root disease, infestation by fir-engraver beetle, silver fir beetle, or fir root bark beetle is frequent.
  • One of the most devastating pests to impact it is the balsam woolly aphid. Infested trees appear swollen, with gouty twigs, poor crowns and little growth; death occurs within two to three years. Infested trees have mottled-red foliage, distinct crown lean and appear to die from the top down.
  • Is very shade tolerant and has low spatial requirements. It can survive in the shade and emerge in stands that are uneven-aged.

Source: U.S. Forest Service

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