Fir trees

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Fir trees
Silver fir (Abies alba) in its natural habitat, Bijela gora in Montenegro

Silver fir ( Abies alba ) in its natural habitat, Bijela gora in Montenegro

Subdivision : Seed plants (Spermatophytina)
Class : Coniferopsida
Order : Conifers (Coniferales)
Family : Pine family (Pinaceae)
Subfamily : Abietoideae
Genre : Fir trees
Scientific name
Illustration by Abies pinsapo
Illustration by Abies homolepis

The firs ( Abies ) form a genus of plants in the pine family (Pinaceae). Depending on the taxonomic view, there are either 40 species or 47 species as well as a number of groups of hybrid origin or varieties, all of which are found in temperate areas of the northern hemisphere and mostly in mountainous regions .


Trunk with bark of a fully grown noble fir ( Abies procera )


All fir species are evergreen, deep-rooted trees with a straight, columnar trunk. The conical crown is formed from regular floors of relatively short, horizontal branches. Few species remain relatively small with a stature height of 20 meters ( Abies koreana ), but most species are dominant forest trees in their habitat and often belong to the largest forest tree species (the European silver fir is the largest tree on the continent). Most fir trees reach heights of growth between 40 and 70 meters, but some American species are also guaranteed growth heights of 90 meters ( Abies grandis , Abies procera ). The trunk of the monopodial firs is usually 1 to 2 meters thick (up to 3 meters in Abies procera and Abies spectabilis ). Seedlings have (four to ten cotyledons cotyledons ).

Root system

With a few exceptions, firs have a pile-shaped root system . This is developed independently of the soil type. For the purple fir ( Abies amabilis ), however, a flat root system is characteristic. It is therefore not very storm-resistant. Of all conifer species, the fir species provide by far the best vertical exposure on the silvicultural difficult, oxygen-poor soils (waterlogging, pseudogley, clay).


The bark is mostly smooth in youth, often gray, only in Abies squamata scaly in youth, but mostly disintegrates into small plates with age ( Abies alba , Abies nordmanniana , Abies procera ).

Needles sitting directly on the branch of the Nordmann fir ( Abies nordmanniana )


The needle-shaped leaves are flat and easily pliable and often have two light-colored stoma bands on the underside . The needles are eight to eleven years old. With their widened foot they sit directly on the branches (see picture). They differ in this z. B. of spruce trees ( Picea ).

Top of the noble fir ( Abies procera ) with the very large cones typical of the species

Flowers, cones and seeds

Fir species are single sexed ( monoecious ), there are female and male cones on one plant specimen. The cones are only found in the uppermost branches at the top and are always upright on the branch (in contrast to the hanging spruce cones that fall as a whole). The axis (spindle) of the tenon remains on the tree, while the scales fall off individually. As a result, fallen pine cones cannot be collected. The winged seeds ripen in the cone.

The position and development of the cones is not only essential for generic delimitation, their shape is also one of the most important morphological distinguishing features between the individual species.


Fir wood is soft, usually odorless, creamy white to tan colored. Heartwood and sapwood are practically indistinguishable. The wood fibers are straight, with a gradual transition between early and late wood. Resin channels are usually not formed.

Thousand grain masses of seeds

Fir type Thousand grain mass in g source
Abies alba 45
Abies amabilis 46
Abies balsamea 8th
Abies bornmuelleriana 70
Abies cephalonica 70
Abies concolor 31
Abies fraseri 7th
Abies grandis 7th
Abies koreana 10
Abies lasiocarpa 14th
Abies magnificia 66
Abies nordmanniana 66
Abies pinsapo 62
Abies procera 30th
Abies sibirica 10
Abies veitchii 10

Global distribution

All species of the Abies genus are common in the northern hemisphere (the word "fir", Middle High German tanne / tann / tan , is accordingly only found in the Germanic languages). Like the other genera of the pine family ( Pinus , Picea , and Larix ), they are predominantly distributed over extensive territories in the temperate and cold zones of the Old and New World from the coast to altitudes of 4700 meters. The area populated by the fir trees thus includes Europe, North Africa , North and Central Asia and North America .

In the western Old World, the southernmost occurrence is of Abies pinsapo var. Marocana and Abies pinsapo var. Tazaotana Moroccan Atlas in North Africa at 32 ° 30'N, eastern Asia, of Abies kawakamii in Taiwan at 23 ° -24 ° 50 ' N; the northernmost Old World population of Abies sibirica cross the Arctic Circle at 67 ° 40'N along the Pur and Taz in the subarctic region of Siberia .

In the New World, Abies guatemalensis goes via the Tropic of Cancer to the tropical zone. Its southernmost occurrence is between 14 ° and 15 ° N. Abies lasiocarpa is the northernmost here . Its area extends from Southeast Alaska, south of the Copper River Valley to its northeastern limit, east of the central Yukon Territory (latitude 64 ° 30 'N). To the south, the area of Abies lasiocarpa extends following the Rocky Mountains almost over the entire continent, from Alaska to New Mexico and Arizona. The fir trees of North America range from Newfoundland ( Abies balsamea , longitude 53 ° 30 'W.) in Canada to the Copper River ( Abies lasiocarpa var. Lasiocarpa , longitude 145 ° W). Thus, the three boreal species Abies sibirica , Abies balsamea and Abies lasiocarpa have the largest territory among the fir trees.

In general, the individual fir species are morphologically relatively similar. Compared to the related genera with a high number of species such as pine and spruce, the 48 species that are differentiated today also have higher ecological demands. This includes that they need better soils to grow, as well as being adapted to climatic conditions without pronounced drought stress situations with more balanced, cool temperatures. Therefore firs often compete with deciduous trees or are codominant forest trees of mixed forests. Firs are mostly mountain trees in their distribution areas, which rarely colonize lowlands such as the continental taiga. But even there they colonize more and more favorable locations than associated conifers of other genera.

The Abies genus forms a Holarctic circumpolar clan with five subareas (West Euro-Asian, Siberian-East Asian, Himalayan-Southeast Asian, Boreo-Canadian, West Pacific). Closed (temperate) -boreal / continental balsam fir ( Abies balsamea ) and Siberian fir ( Abies sibirica ) form a substantial part of the boreal coniferous forests of Siberia and Canada , without colonizing highly continental areas near the forest and tree line. Eastern outposts of this type of area can be found disjointly in Pacific Eastern Siberia, the Sichote-Alin Mountains, Manchuria and Hokkaidō . In addition to temperate-boreal species, continental species can be found in meridional- submeridional Florence zones (Mexican and southwestern Chinese species, Abies lasiocarpa in the Rocky Mountains ).

The fir species are rich in shape in montane, subalpine and oromediterranean levels of temperate, submeridional and meridional zones, (sub) oceanic mountains ( Abies spectabilis and Abies densa in the "cloud belt" of the perhumid Eastern Himalayas, Abies squamata in China still at altitudes of 4000 to 4500 meters). In the ancient world the firs are usually associated with cedars and pines; pure stands also occur in the subtropics. In temperate latitudes with few tree species in Europe, only pine and spruce species together with firs are found among the coniferous plants. The temperate-submeridional, (sub) oceanic to subcontinental widespread silver fir falls out in the more continental Northern Europe and the boreal taiga in Western Asia.

In the Pacific mountains of North America, as well as the Hindukush Himalayas, Huangshan, the Japanese islands and Taiwan, firs are a common part of mixed coniferous forests. So come with Douglas firs ( Pseudotsuga ), hemlocks ( Tsuga ) and spruces ( Picea ) and pines ( Pinus ) with firs.

Areas with many species of fir are the Mediterranean region in the Old World, the southwest of the People's Republic of China to the Himalayas , and in the New World the West Coast Cordillera of the USA to western Mexico and Central America .

Firs in these regions are often found in isolated mountain retreats where there is sufficient moisture and moderate temperatures. The absolute center of development here is the Sino-Himalayan region with 17 species, most notably the Huang Shan in southwest China.


Old world

Europe and Mediterranean region
Distribution of the genus Abies in Eurasia
Distribution of European fir species ( Abies )
Ecological niche of European and Mediterranean fir trees

In the temperate (sub) meridional Mediterranean distribution focus, firs colonize (sub) oceanic mountains. With seven species of fir, the Mediterranean area is one of the development centers of the genus. However, some species only have relict residual populations and, without protection, would be endangered species. Including the Nebroden fir ( Abies nebrodensis ) or the Numidian fir ( Abies numidica ). Mediterranean firs are typical Pleistocene relic endings and form a taxonomic unit that can be derived from a tertiary clan of origin and is very different from American species, but shows a distant relationship to the Asian species.


The Mediterranean firs and their societies are differentiated into south-west, central and south-east Mediterranean groups. Due to the glacial climatic oscillations in disjointed areas, they have developed into vicarious species without the species and varieties being genetically completely isolated in the individual mountains. Between the individual groups there was always a more or less strong genetic exchange in climatically favorable periods, or there was general hybridization ( networked evolution , an example of this is the Bulgarian fir ( Abies × borisii-regis )).

Many of the geographically neighboring and morphologically and ecologically similar species such as the Spanish fir ( Abies pinsapo ) and Numidic fir ( Abies numidica ) are closely related, but there is also a wide range of similarities between morphologically more different forms such as the silver fir and the Spanish fir suggests a genetic exchange during the Pleistocene .

The silver fir and the Nebroden fir ( Abies nebrodensis ) from Sicily are also closely related . Hybrids, which are the result of the introgression of two species that lived together sympatricly (in the same area) during longer phases of the Ice Ages , are the Bulgarian fir ( Abies alba × Abies cephalonica ) on the Balkan Peninsula, as well as the historically relatively young Troy fir ( Abies × equi -Trojani ) ( Abies cephalonica × Abies nordmanniana ) in western Anatolia.

In terms of vegetation, however, firs in Asia Minor and Southeastern Europe differ more from the conditions found in Central Europe. The individual fir provenances are also clearly differentiated autecologically in terms of budding, risk of late frost, drought resistance, shade tolerance or vitality after damage to the shoots. The Mediterranean firs can also rejuvenate themselves well in open spaces and are therefore close to species of pioneer vegetation in certain locations. As long-term pioneers, they can even form extrazonal climax communities on rock-rich raw soils (such as the Cilician fir ( Abies cilicica ) or the silver fir from southern provenances on sites of the so-called block pile fir forest ) and occur here increasingly in pure stands without codominant tree species.

Site conditions
The undergrowth in the fir-beech forests of Europe are shadow-tolerant beech forest companions such as Fagetalia classes of character species from the genus Aquilegia . The picture shows the Pleasant Columbine from beech and fir forests in the Dinaric Bijela gora

Abies alba avoids snowy areas of the forest, predominantly in middle locations, the montane and oro-Mediterranean levels . Damage from snow loads and competition should be an obstacle to establishment here. Mediterranean firs are more prone to rash after damage, and Cilician firs such as Greek firs ( Abies cephalonica ) reach the tree line . Deposits are found in the northernmost areas of Abies alba and Nordmann fir ( Abies nordmanniana ).

In terms of location ecology, Mediterranean firs differ from cedar and beech complexes. This niche can also be correlated with climatic parameters. The classic beech forest communities include Abies alba , Abies nebrodensis and Abies nordmanniana . With cedars ( Cedrus ) are Abies pinsapo s. l., Abies numidica and Abies cilicica associated. Abies cephalonica only appears in pure form. Beech forest species can also be found sporadically in the area of Abies pinsapo , relic even in Abies numidica . Only Abies cephalonica and Abies cilicica forests are no longer related to Fagion societies .

The Cilician Fir ( Abies cilicica ) is native to the central and eastern Taurus without the West Taurus and is relatively closed to northern Syria and Lebanon. Here, as in the case of the Greek fir ( Abies cephalonica ), mostly underdeveloped raw soils of banked limestone are planted with developed limestone (red loam) soils deep in fissures . By colonizing initial raw limestone soils, they have the character of a certain pioneering species with a modest growth rate of 5 to 12 m for pronounced dry firs.

The Spanish fir ( Abies pinsapo ) found in the southwestern Mediterranean ice is limited to small-scale residual occurrences in the most humid mountain areas (Sierra Nevada: 50 hectares, Babour massif in Algeria: 1000 hectares, Rif Atlas in Morocco: 15,000 hectares). The growth rates in the largest part of the area with remarkable 50 meter high individual trees are excellent. The mesophilic Spanish fir achieves much better growth rates than the Cilician fir with the same geological substrate (limestone). Prerequisites for the physiological optimum of Mediterranean firs are abundant rainfall, deep, crevice-open, fine-earth, freshly stocked soils and shady locations. Closely related to the Spanish fir is the Numidian fir, which is found in the Babour Massif in Kabylia on north and east slopes at altitudes of 1800 to 2000 meters. Associations with the atlas cedar are typical for both the Numidian fir and the Moroccan growing species of the Spanish fir .

The northern Anatolian-Caucasian firs are now all part of the Nordmann fir ( Abies nordmanniana ), but have historically been differentiated according to site ecotypes. Taxonomically differentiated more strongly depending on the author and also the hybrid forms between the Greek and Nordmann fir as separate species ( Abies × equi-trojani ). As typical Colchian forest trees, they are widespread on the cool, humid southern and western fringes of the Black Sea in mixed mountain forests, which, with oriental beech and oriental spruce , are already very similar to the analogous locations of silver fir, European spruce and red beech.

The individual species trace the transition between subcontinental (sub) oceanic and Mediterranean semi-arid climates. The climate-ecological intermediate position of Abies cephalonica and Abies pinsapo sensu stricto is underlined by the absence of beech and cedar trees in both parts of the area. They also build largely closed, almost pure stocks, mostly of a plenter- like structure. The fir areas can be divided less according to the annual precipitation than according to the moderately dry, fresher and more humid vegetation period. The warmth of the vegetation period increases from north to south as the precipitation decreases. Abies pinsapo , Abies numidica and Abies nebrodensis are endangered in their natural habitat. Larger areas are occupied by Abies cilicica , Abies cephalonica , Abies alba and Abies nordmanniana .


Various centers of diversity have been established in the complex region, above all the southwest China-Himalayan region. The areas of Abies pindrow , Abies spectabilis , Abies densa and Abies delavayi line up from the Northwest Himalayas to the East Himalayas . The latter then has its center of diversity with numerous subspecies in the high mountain region of southwest China on the edge of the Tibetan highlands. In central China, in addition to Abies chensiensis , Abies fargesii , Abies recurvata and Abies squamata, there are also numerous endemics that only occur in relicts.

Northeast China, Korea and the Amur region of Russia are home to Abies nephrolepis , Abies holophylla , Abies koreana and Abies nephrolepis . Siberia and the Tian Shan are only populated by one species of fir, Abies sibirica .

The Japanese archipelago, Sakhalin and Taiwan form another center of diversity with Abies firma , Abies mariesii , Abies homolepis , Abies sachalinensis and Abies kawakamii .

Distribution of Abies in the New World

New world

East Coast and Boreal Zone

Only two species are found on the east coast of North America, Abies balsamea and the related Abies fraserii .

West Coast and North American Cordilleras

The American firs have a fundamentally similar ecological niche to the Eurasian firs, but the north-south extension of the mountains, which are mainly found on the Pacific side, provide more favorable climatic conditions for unhindered migration under geologically changing climatic conditions. This is why the fir trees in western North America still have their greatest ecological and economic importance. They represent essential components of the vegetation, especially in the boreal coniferous forest (Canada, Alaska), the nemoral Pacific coniferous forest (Alaska to California), as well as in the montane and alpine coniferous forests of the Cascade Ranges, Cascade Mountains, Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains (including Washington , Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, California, Nevada).

Here they are of great importance for the water catchment areas and prevent rapid deposition of the snow masses in the mountains. In doing so, they support the water quality of the rivers to a large extent. In pine forests of North America also important bird breeding sites found so shopping to jungle locations spotted owl ( Strix occidentalis caurina , English northern spotted owl ), the bald eagle and osprey as well as the large mammals mule deer ( Odocoileus hemionus ), white-tailed deer ( Odocoileus virginianus ), wapiti ( Cervus canadensis ) , Black bear and grizzly bear , moose and mountain goat .

The firs can be found here in all forest levels, from the seashore ( giant fir on the Pacific coast and balsam fir on the Atlantic coast) to the tree line ( noble fir and rocky mountain fir ). They achieve their best development in relatively cool and damp locations.



Fir veneer
Trunks of silver firs ( Abies alba ) from Gersbach (Schopfheim) support the largest self-supporting wooden roof in the world (area: 16,000 m² ≈ 2 football fields) at the Expo 2000

Firs are the most diverse genus of the pine family after the pines, but their forestry importance is less than that of Douglas fir and spruce. In Europe, among the autochthonous species, only the silver fir is important. Some introduced American species are of local importance, in Germany only the coastal fir tree. However, cultivation trials were carried out for noble fir and purple fir. In terms of forestry, the Nordmann fir, which is important for forestry in their home countries, is particularly recommended in this country. In cultivation trials, it turned out to be superior to the silver fir, especially with lower susceptibility to late frost, the same growth and wood quality, but better secondary use (Christmas tree, ornamental branches).

In western North America, firs have their greatest ecological and economic importance. With the exception of two only endemic firs, six species that continue to occur are used here in a variety of forestry terms (noble fir, coastal fir, magnificent fir, purple fir, Colorado fir, balsam fir). The wood of the purple and balsam fir is processed to produce paper cellulose. The wood of the splendid fir was specially used in the 19th century when it was used to store butter and cheese and was therefore called "butter wood". Like the wood of all fir trees, it is tasteless and odorless.

Japan, as one of the main buyers of American fir wood, uses it for its own construction industry (wood from noble and purple fir). Boards, roof shingles, doors, wooden shoes, musical instruments and household items are made from their own types of fir wood.

In the Chinese province of Sichuan, the wood from Abies delavayii and Abies fabri was used to build temples.

Secondary uses for forestry are the extraction of fir balsam (Canadian balsam and Strasbourg turpentine), distillation of essential oils (especially in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia) for the usually steam distillation of needles, and in India the distillation from the resinous seeds of the Himalayan species .

Fir wood

Firs are ripening trees , so there is no color difference between heartwood and sapwood . The wood is yellowish-white in color and, compared to the very similar spruce wood, has no resin channels and only barely visible pith rays. Due to its very similar properties, the wood of the silver fir is used in a similar way to spruce wood: The range of applications primarily includes use in paper and pulp production , as construction and furniture wood for indoor use and as firewood . As sawn timber, spruce wood is usually traded and used together with fir wood as a mixed range of spruce / fir. Spruce wood is processed in the form of round wood , sawn timber such as boards and glued laminated timber and as veneer wood . At the same time, it is the most important wood for the production of wood-based materials such as plywood , glued wood , chipboard and fiberboard .

Due to the higher trunk moisture, drying is more difficult than with spruce. Special applications are in hydraulic engineering, where fir wood is extremely durable, and as fruit and vegetable boxes because it is odorless.

Other important firs used for forestry are the Nordmann fir among the European species and Abies delavayi , Abies spectabilis or Abies pindrow among the Chinese and Himalayan species .

Among the American species, the noble fir ( Abies procera ) provides the best wood. Because of its strength, it was used in aircraft construction (for example, the airframe of the Royal Air Force de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was made of fine fir wood), but also in structural timber and ladder construction. The forests of the American silver fir are also among the forests with the highest reserves in their area of ​​origin. An approximately 350-year-old population of noble fir trees in the Goat Marsh Research Area on the western slope of Mount St. Helens in Washington State is home to the most abundant forest type in the world after the redwood forests . Here, mass outputs of over 1600 tons per hectare are achieved, with fir trees of up to 90 meters high.

Like spruce, fir wood is a soft wood with high strength. In contrast to spruce, however, fir wood dries much more slowly and under certain circumstances forms a wet core, which previously could cause problems due to a year-long storage in the air and required additional drying effort. Today fir wood is technically dried immediately after being felled. There is also a difference in the durability of fir and spruce wood. Fir wood stores phenolic compounds in the heartwood, which can be effective against fungal attack. However, neither fir nor spruce are weather-resistant without treatment. When used as construction timber, the bulk density is decisive, as this shows no practical differences in spruce and fir, the suitability of fir is unrestricted; also because silver fir wood is dimensionally and dimensionally stable. In terms of compressive, flexural, shear and torsional strength, there are no practical differences to spruce wood. White fir wood is also perceived as noble in interior construction, it is odorless and has a light color that does not darken.


Firs are important trees for landscaping and gardening. The large-growing species are also planted in large urban parks and green areas, depending on the climatic severity. Today, North American mountain species are often preferred due to their conspicuous needling and low risk of late frost. The American silver fir and the Colorado fir are also sometimes superior to the white fir because of their greater tolerance to air pollution.

In garden design, the small-growing Korean fir and all types of fir with the so-called 'Glauca' variety (due to the thick wax coating of the leaves, these appear blue-white) are planted. These include the Numidian fir ('Glauca' variety), the American noble fir and the Colorado fir , but also those with a very harmonious Nordmann fir.

In the Atlantic regions of Europe via Denmark, France and Great Britain, the fir trees of the American west coast, which are not very resistant to late frost (among others Abies grandis ), as well as some of the fir trees of the Himalayas are also planted. These are only climate-hard in the mildest areas of Germany.

Secondary use


The light green spruce tips in May - May green - are not only edible, but an old medicine and home remedy against cough . They contain beneficial enzymes . They are preserved as syrup . A well-known and pleasantly resinous essential oil of various species ( Abies spectabilis , Abies alba ) is obtained from the monoterpenes of the needles . This is used in bath additives or for sauna infusions. Fir forests are also important for beekeeping. Pure fir honey is one of the most expensive honeys.

Christmas tree

The classic Christmas trees in Germany are the Nordmann fir , and in North America, but now also increasingly in Europe, the American noble fir and the Colorado fir are grown in plantations . In addition, twigs are extracted from fir trees . The Christmas tree plantations and the types recommended for Christmas tree production are tested for suitability in cultivation trials (so-called provenance trials) in all important growing countries (Great Britain, Denmark, Germany, various states of the USA such as Idaho, Oregon, Pennsylvania). Regionally different types are recommended.

Tabular overview of important species

The following table provides a general overview of important fir species for forestry, landscaping, suitability as a Christmas tree and their ecological function in their natural habitat (based on Farjon 2010):

Art Forestry importance Wood and special use Horticulture and landscaping Christmas tree Ecological function
European silver fir ( Abies alba ) important montane forest tree Plywood, veneers, rarely sound boxes for musical instruments, boxes; Ridge columns , important in the 17th century for large ship masts ( Dutch ); Bee costume; Extraction of essential oil; Strasbourg turpentine (Terebinthina alsatica) in folk medicine species hardly used outside of the natural range; mostly in botanical collections; Hardly persistent in mild winter regions (oceanic Western Europe) only in countries with autochthonous stands with mostly secondary forest use, in England in the 19th century still very popular stabilizing element of the mountain forest; Protective function against erosion, floods such as avalanche prevention; regional tourism element (Black Forest, Alps)
Purple fir ( Abies amabilis ) important forest tree on the Northwest Pacific coast of the USA and Canada not known due to the high demands on running moisture only locally in the British Isles no meaning Climax element of the subalpine Abies amabilis - Tsuga heterophyta level (Western hemlock); the most shade-tolerant of all fir species; high sensitivity to forest fires; forms primary forests up to 400 years old; important landscape element of numerous national parks in the western USA (including Mount Rainier)
Balsam fir ( Abies balsamea ) important boreal forest tree Paper wood, wood for light shelves; traditional medicinal uses of the resin (Balsamum canadese); Resin commonly used in industry as an embedding agent in microscopy and cement for fine optical lens systems no suitability, as short-lived one of the three most important Christmas trees in the eastern United States Climax society of boreal spruce-fir forests ( Picea glauca , Picea mariana , Betula papyrifera )
Colorado fir ( Abies concolor ) Forest tree that has been in greater demand than other types of fir in recent decades as general construction timber the most recommended type of fir for urban locations, drought resistant; Cultivars with very conspicuous blue needles great importance in the USA; growing importance for Europe (especially recommended for self-selection of the plantations) frequent character type of the upper montane to subalpine coniferous forest level; Shade tolerant and medium fire sensitivity; Climax society in the largest percentage of montane coniferous forests in California's Sierra Nevada (Sierran White Fir forests)
Forests fir ( Abies forrestii ) Wood processed in sawmills; The Chinese government has at least officially stopped logging in mountain forests general construction timber is called one of the most attractive fir trees (Farjon 2010,) no use Tree of the subalpine level, goes up to 4300 m in the mountains
Coastal fir ( Abies grandis ) important forest tree due to its size and rapid growth little solid wood, especially for the paper industry; not very durable very common in Europe in the 19th century for large systems; not uncommon even today popular in the Pacific Northwest, very symmetrical as a young tree Climax forests in the coastal zone of the NW Pacific, as well as in the montane zone in the Cascade Mountains
Korea fir ( Abies koreana ) not suitable for forestry not known most important fir tree currently used in landscaping highly recommended but rarely forms pure stands (Cheju Island) or as a subordinate element in mixed forests (mainland Korea); associated with Betula ermanii , Picea jezoensis and Pinus koreanensis ;
Magnificent fir ( Abies magnifica ) is becoming more and more important as a forest tree because of its dimensions and straight shafts general construction timber; Paper industry; the particularly thick bark was traditionally used as a substitute for charcoal harmonious and beautiful garden tree, much more lime-tolerant than the similar noble fir significant, both from natural stocks and plantations Climax forests of the subalpine mixed conifers level of the Sierra Nevada; medium shadow tolerance and medium fire tolerance; in the absence of forest fires, magnificent fir forests can gain dominance and even redwood forests can overgrow; one then speaks of the so-called 'Red Fir Phase'
Nordmann fir ( Abies nordmanniana ) important forest tree general construction material, in particular plywood the most important European-Asia Minor fir in horticulture by far the most popular Christmas tree in Europe similar ecological niche as the silver fir; Mixed forests associated with Picea orientalis and Fagus orientalis, montane to high montane
Spanish fir ( Abies pinsapo ) no longer meaning As the name suggests, the needles were used to make soap very attractive tree which is accordingly in demand in horticulture; Abies numidica is very similar and even more striking no meaning important dry fir populates the raw limestone soils in Mediterranean climates
Noble fir ( Abies procera ) most important forest fir species Stocks of wood of considerable volume; largest trunk dimensions and best wood quality of the fir trees; general construction wood, parquet wood; formerly special applications such as propellers in aircraft construction, airframes (World War II); Ladder construction; the odorless, white wood is ideal for boxes and containers; Popular garden tree, does not thrive on lime, susceptible to late frost important Christmas tree also outside of its natural range mostly in mixed forests from the coast to the high-montane to subalpine zone in the Pacific Northwest such as the Cascade Mountains, on the coast with Tsuga heterophylla , Picea sitchensis and Thuja plicata ; Mountainous areas with Pseudotsuga menziesii , Abies grandis , Abies amabilis u. a.
Siberian fir ( Abies sibirica ) important boreal forest tree for light shelving and paper extraction like all continental and high mountain species endangered by late frost and therefore rarely planted no meaning mixed boreal forests with Picea obovata and Larix gmelinii
Veitch's fir ( Abies veitchii ) Forest tree little high quality wood for the paper industry very popular in England in the 19th century; attractive tree is the fastest growing fir and may become more important in the future occurs in mixed coniferous forests together with Abies mariesii , Picea jezoensis , Larix kaempferi , Thuja standishii , Pinus parviflora such as P. pumiila .


Religious customs

Firs are symbols of birth and resurrection in many cultures. As evergreen trees, they also embody the religious belief in eternal life. Fir twigs and twigs are therefore also part of grave decorations and grave wreaths. But their symbolism is also important for the decoration of Easter decorations on market fountains. In addition, Advent wreaths are woven from fir branches. The fir green is supposed to embody life in the season in which much has died. However, the custom is more recent and the Catholic Church only adopted this originally Protestant custom after the First World War.

The general metamorphosis of the fir tree to the Christmas tree in Advent is reproduced in Rainer Maria Rilke's poem "The wind drives the winter forest" .


Poetry and song

The sacred connotation of the fir symbolism is also found in Romanian lamentations and songs of the dead, where firs are the trees that bear the greatest veneration and the highest degree of sacred character. An example of this topos of the fir motif as a symbol of the resurrection in lamentations and songs of the dead can also be found on the Balkan Peninsula, such as in the Serbian folk song Pod jelom zaspalo devojče (German: the girl fell asleep under the fir tree ). A frequent formalistic use of this motif is found in Serbian epic poetry (mostly in connection with “Vita Jela” = “supple fir”) in which Christian belief and pagan tradition ( tree cult ) are expressed. This formulaic use of the fir in the epic ten-syllable chants has been preserved in the mountains of the Herzegovian-Montenegrin Hochkarst to this day:

"Smooth fir trees of the Bijela Gora, why so gloomy as if it wasn't summer."

- Epic song of the Bijela gora

Poets repeatedly took up the symbol of the fir as emblems of death and resurrection; Including in Germany, among others, Franz Alfred Muth in “Die alte Tanne”, which was also set to music by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger , Ferdinand Freiligrath “Die Tanne”, Gottlieb Konrad Pfeffel “Die Tanne”, Emil Rittershaus “Tanne und Rose”.

The originally Bohemian wandering bird song “Hohe Tannen haben die Sterne”, published for the first time in 1923 in the songbook “The Young People” of the Association of German Ring Scouts, reflected the folk-oriented zeitgeist in an additional stanza during the Nazi era with the emphasis on “ Germanic “symbols and emblems.


Ludwig Ganghofer describes the fir blossom in his novel, " Waldrausch ", which has been filmed several times, as rust-colored clouds that fly through the forest in spring.


Firs ( Abies ) form the subfamily Abietoideae within the pine family (Pinaceae). The closest related genus is Keteleeria , its immediate relatives include cedars ( Cedrus ) and hemlocks ( Tsuga ).

The genus Abies was classically based on the morphology of the female cones, divided into ten sections and further into subsections. Phylogenetic results based on nucleotide sequences of the cpDNA 37 Abies species by Svetlana Semerikova and V. Smerikov (2014) contradict the systematic classification of Aljos Farjons (2010). Semerikova and Smerikov only confirmed six main groups.

Earlier genetic phylogenies based on ITS sequences had confirmed nine sections of the classical morphological system, but the statistical support of many clades was weak, and the relationship between the main groups remained unsolved. Semerikova & Sermikov also examined intraspecific variability through the evolution of plastid DNA (cpDNA). It turned out that the intraspecific variability was always substantially lower than between species. With the exception of the silver fir, all of the accessions examined were of monophyletic origin.

The cpDNA phylogeny could distinguish six groups. As the most original species, Abies bracteata with many ancient characteristics is closest to Keteleeria and is the only species of Group I. Group II was formed by only one species, the Californian magnificent fir ( Abies magnifica ), its closest related species - the precious fir ( Abies procera ) - was not included in the investigation. Just like Abies bracteata , the magnificent fir is characterized by some ancient features and specific mutations. Similar to Abies bracteata , the magnificent fir forms a basal clade in the phylogetic tree. On the other hand, the magnificent fir, unlike Abies bracteata, has a character that connects it with the species of group III, the Mesoamerican and firs of the American Northwest. Group III includes the Mesoamerican and Northwest American species that form a clade and two subclades. This is divided on the one hand by the coastal fir and on the other hand by the Colorado fir and the Mexican fir species. Groups IV-VI form a clade with two branches: the European-Mediterranean species (group IV) and another with groups V and VI. Group IV of the Euro-Mediterranean firs is distinguished by the presence of a large number of mutations from all other species of the genus Abies . However, the phylogeny of this group remained unsolved in the investigation. Group V includes the "boreal" or North American fir species with two subclades: one of the species of north-western North America ( Abies lasiocarpa ) and the north-eastern North American fir ( Abies balsamea , Abies fraseri ). Group VI is the largest and most species-rich group with all Asian fir species. Within the group there is a subclade with the species from the Far East ( Abies nephrolepis , Abies koreana , Abies sacalinenesis , Abies gracilis , Abies veitchii , and a Chinese fir Abies chensiensis ). In general, group VI is poorly differentiated. Only the Himalayan as well as the Siberian and Chinese species show a certain phylogenetic subdivision.

Genus firs ( Abies )

Abies section

  • Abies Section (Central, Southern and Eastern Europe)

Piceaster section

  • Piceaster Section (Spain, North Africa)
    • Spanish fir or hedgehog fir ( Abies pinsapo Boiss. ): There are two subtaxas :
      • Subspecies Abies pinsapo subsp. marocana (Trot.) Emb. & Maire (Syn .: Abies marocana Trot. )
      • Subspecies Abies pinsapo Boiss. subsp. pinsapo
    • Numidic fir , Algiers fir ( Abies numidica de Lannoy ex Carrière ), put by some authors as a variety Abies pinsapo var. Numidica (de Lannoy ex Carrière) Salomon (syn .: Abies pinsapo var. Baborensis Coss. ) To Abies pinsapo .

Bracteatae Section

  • Bracteatae Section A.E. Murray (Western North America)
    • Awn fir , Santa Lucia fir ( Abies bracteata (D.Don) A.Poit. )

Momi section

  • Momi Section (Southeast Asia)
    • Subsection Homolepides (Franco) Farjon & Rushforth
    • Subsection Company (Franco) Farjon & Rushforth

Amabiles section

  • Section Amabiles A.E. Murray (Pacific coast of North America and Japan)
    • Purple fir ( Abies amabilis (Douglas ex Loudon) Douglas ex J.Forbes )
    • Marie's fir or Aomori fir ( Abies mariesii mast. )

Section pseudopicea

  • Subsection Squamatae A.E. Murray

Section Balsameae

  • Section Balsameae A.E. Murray (North America, Asia)
    • Lateral subsection
      • Balsam fir ( Abies balsamea (L.) Mill. )
      • Rock mountain fir ( Abies lasiocarpa (Hook.) Nutt. ), With several varieties:
        • Arizona fir ( Abies lasiocarpa var. Arizonica (Merriam) Lemmon )
        • Abies lasiocarpa var. Bifolia (A. Murray bis) Eckenw.
        • Common mountain fir ( Abies lasiocarpa (Hook.) Nutt. Var. Lasiocarpa )
      • Siberian fir ( Abies sibirica Ledeb. )

Section Grandes

Section Oiamel

  • Oiamel Section (Southwest North America)

Section Nobiles

  • Section Nobiles (western USA)
    • Magnificent fir or gold fir ( Abies magnifica A. Murray bis )
    • Noble fir or silver fir ( Abies procera Rehder , Syn .: Abies nobilis (Douglas ex D. Don) Lindl. ); with the variety blue noble fir or blue fir ( Abies procera Rehder 'Glauca').

Natural hybrid

Hybrid created by artificial crossing

  • Arnold's fir ( Abies × arnoldiana Nitz. ), Hybrid of Korean fir and Veitch's fir ( Abies koreana × Abies veitchii )
  • Magnificent hybrid fir ( Abies × insignis Carriére ex Bailly ), hybrid of Nordmann fir and Spanish fir ( Abies nordmanniana × Abies pinsapo )
  • Vilmorin's fir ( Abies × vilmorinii Mast. ), Artificial hybrid of Greek fir and Spanish fir ( Abies cephalonica × Abies pinsapo )
  • Pardé fir (the specimen originally listed as Numidian fir in the Arboretum Des Barres ) was first described by Henri Gaussen in 1928 as the new species Abies pardei Gaussen . The Pardé fir was cultivated in Des Barres before 1875 and has black hairs on the young shoots as an outstanding characteristic. A similarity to Abies borisii-regis was pointed out in the first description . In 1990 Farjon placed it close to the silver fir because of its morphological characteristics. by J. do A. Franco as a synonym for Abies × insignis Carriére ex Bailly and is probably a synonym for Abies alba . Since the putative parent species have remained unknown to this day, it can also be a garden hybrid. As a synonym, it can be used for several accepted taxa, but is probably no longer an accepted taxon itself in the 21st century.


  • Christopher J. Earle: Abies. In: The Gymnosperm Database. 2019, accessed April 7, 2019 .



  • SA Semerikova, VL Semerikov Phylogeny of Firs (Genus Abies , Pinaceae) Based on Multilocus Nuclear Markers (AFLP). In: Russian Journal of Genetics , Volume 52, Issue 11, 2016, pp. 1164-1175. (Researchgate: Abstract)
  • SA Semerikova, VL Semerikov: Mitochondrial DNA Variation and Reticulate Evolution of the Genus Abies. In: Russian Journal of Genetics , Volume 50, Issue 4, 2014, pp. 420-432. (Researchgate: Abstract)
  • SA Semerikova, VL Semerikov: Molecular Phylogenetic Analysis of the Genus Abies (Pinaceae) Based on the Nucleotide Sequence of Chloroplast DNA. In: Russian Journal of Genetics , Volume 50, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 7-19. (Researchgate: PDF)
  • George W. Edwards: Abies P. Mill.-fir. In: Franklin T. Bonner, Robert P. Karrfalt: The Woody Plant Seed Manual. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Agricultural Handbook 727, April 2008, pp. 149-198. (PDF) (The other book chapters under [1] )
  • Peter Schütt: Fir species from Europe and Asia Minor. Ecomed, Landsberg am Lech 1994, ISBN 3-609-69890-X .

Technical article

  • Pierre Quézel: Diversité et répartition des sapins sur le pourtour méditerranéen. In: Foret Méditerranéene. Volume 19, No. 2, May 1998, pp. 93-104, (French, with English summary).
  • Marcel Barbéro, Pierre Quézel: Les forêts des sapins sur le poutour méditerranéen. In: Anales del Instituto Botánico AJ Cavanilles. Volume 32, No. 2, 1975, pp. 1245-1289, PDF.
  • M. Ducrey, H. Oswald (Eds.): Séminaire international. Sapins méditerranéens. Adaptation, sélection et sylviculture. Avignon, France du 11 au 15 juin 1990. International workshop. Mediterranean firs. Adaptation, selection and silviculture. Avignon, France 11 to 15 June 1990. Commission of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 1991, ISBN 92-826-2843-4 , PDF.

Individual evidence

  1. James E. Eckenwalder: Conifers of the World. The Complete Reference . Timber Press, Portland, OR / London 2009, ISBN 978-0-88192-974-4 .
  2. ^ Aljos Farjon: A handbook of the worlds' conifers. Volume 1, Brill, Leiden / Boston 2010, ISBN 978-90-04-17718-5 , limited preview in Google book search.
  3. James E. Eckenwalder: Conifers of the World. The Complete Reference . Timber Press, Portland, OR / London 2009, ISBN 978-0-88192-974-4 , pp. 77 .
  4. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p thousand grain masses
  5. ^ Alfred Helfenstein: The name of the Pilatus area. Keller & Co AG, Lucerne 1982, ISBN 3-85766-004-X , p. 38.
  6. ^ TS Liu: Monograph of the Genus Abies . 1971, p. 71.
  7. ^ TS Liu: Monograph of the Genus Abies . 1971, p. 72.
  8. a b c Aljos Farjon: A Handbook of the world's conifers. Volume 1, Brill, Leiden / Boston, 2010, ISBN 978-90-04-17718-5 , p. 17, limited preview in Google Book Search.
  9. a b Pavle Cikovac: Sociology and site-related distribution of fir-rich forests in the Orjen Mountains - Montenegro. Diploma thesis at the Ludwig Maximilians University, Faculty of Geography, Munich 2003, (PDF).
  10. ^ Juan Carlos Linares: Biogeography and evolution of Abies (Pinaceae) in the Mediterranean Basin: the roles of long-term climatic change and glacial refugia. In: Journal of Biogeography. Volume 38, No. 4, 2011, pp. 618-630, doi: 10.1111 / j.1365-2699.2010.02458.x .
  11. ^ Pavle Cikovac: Distribution and ecology of Dinaric calcareaous fir forests in the high-karst zone (Rhamno-Abietum Fuk.). In: Ratko Ristić et al. (Ed.): First Serbian forestry congress. Congress abstracts. Faculty of Forestry, Belgrade 2010, ISBN 978-86-7299-066-9 , pp. 55-56, PDF.
  12. ^ A b George Edwards: Pinaceae - Pine family Abies P. Mill. Fir Abies - National Seed Laboratory - USDA Forest Service. (PDF; 1.7 MB)
  13. ^ A b c Hubertus Nimsch: Experiences with Abies species in southwest Germany. 2004, PDF
  14. ^ D. George W. Edwards: Abies (= Specific Handling Methods & Data. ). In: Franklin T. Bonner, Robert P. Karrfalt (Ed.): The Woody Plant Seed Manual (= USDA Forest Service. Agriculture Handbook. 727). United States Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. 2008, ISBN 978-0-16-081131-9 , p. 154, PDF.  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  15. Jerry F. Franklin, Curt Wiberg: Goat Marsh Natural Research Area. In: Supplement 10 to Federal Research Natural Areas in Oregon and Washington: A Guidebook for Scientists and Educators. , 1979, pp. 1-19, PDF.
  16. Udo Hans Sauter 2017: A modern construction timber - the silver fir wood from the perspective of wood research. (PDF)
  17. Bob Girardin: Mediterranean firs for hardiness zones 6 & 7. PDF. ( Memento of the original from May 5, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  18. Norbert Lagoni: Medicinal Notes on Fir (Abies alba Mill.). In: LWF knowledge. Reports from the Bavarian State Institute for Forests and Forestry. Volume 45 ( Contributions to the fir tree. ), Freising 2004, ( Memento of the original from December 11, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 773 kB). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19. ^ Aljos Farjon: A handbook of the worlds' conifers. Volume 1, Brill, Leiden / Boston 2010, ISBN 978-90-04-17718-5 , p. 85, limited preview in the Google book search (" Abies forrestii is one of the most attractive fir species ...").
  20. Hugh Johnson: Trees . Haupt, Bern 2010.
  21. Easter decorations at the market fountain in Dermbach. ( Memento of the original from May 28, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  22. Octavian Boctuhoi: The Romanian folk culture and its mythology: lament for the dead, boys 'associations and Christmas carols, shepherds' phenomena and heroic songs (= writings for the intellectual history of Eastern Europe. Volume 8). Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1974, ISBN 3-447-01596-9 , p. 30, limited preview in the Google book search.
  23. ^ Svetozar Koljević : Repetition as Invention in the Songs of Vuk Karađić. In: Oral Tradition , 7/2, 1992, p. 353. PDF.
  24. The old fir tree
  25. Die Tanne ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  26. The fir tree
  27. Tanne and Rose ( Memento of the original from February 28, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  28. Tall fir trees show the stars
  29. Botany: Even conifers have a blossom , Mitteldeutsche Zeitung of Feb. 15, 2005
  30. ^ Aljos Farjon: A handbook of the worlds' conifers. Volume 1, Brill, Leiden / Boston 2010, ISBN 978-90-04-17718-5 , p. 56, limited preview in Google Book Search.
  31. SA Semerikova & VL Smerikov 2014: Molecular Phylogenetic Analysis of the Genus Abies (Pinaceae) Based on the Nucleotide Sequence of Chloroplast DNA. In: Russian Journal of Genetics , Volume 50, 2014, 7-19.
  32. Qiao-Ping Xiang, Qiu-Yun Xiang, Yan-Yan Guo, Xian-Chun Zhang: Phylogeny of Abies (Pinaceae) inferred from nrITS sequence data. In: Taxon. Volume 58, No. 1, 2009, pp. 141-152 (abstract).
  33. SA Semerikova & VL Smerikov 2014: p. 7
  34. ^ J. Burtt Davy: Review: Une nouvelle espèce de sapin: Abies pardei. In: Forestry. Volume 5, No. 1, 1931, p. 90 (preview). ( Memento of the original from December 17, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  35. Aljos Farjon: Pinaceae - drawings and descriptions of the genera Abies, Cedrus, Pseudolarix, Keteleeria, Nothotsuga, Tsuga, Cathaya, Pseudotsuga, Larix and Picea. In: Regnum Vegetabile. Volume 121, 1990 ISSN  0080-0694 , Koeltz Scientific Books, Königstein, p. 19.
  36. ^ TS Liu: Monograph of the Genus Abies . 1971, p. 218.

Web links

Commons : Tannen ( Abies )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Fir tree  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations