Silver fir

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Silver fir
Silver fir (Abies alba)

Silver fir ( Abies alba )

Order : Conifers (Coniferales)
Family : Pine family (Pinaceae)
Subfamily : Abietoideae
Genre : Firs ( Abies )
Section : Abies
Type : Silver fir
Scientific name
Abies alba

The silver fir ( Abies alba ) or silver fir is a European species of conifer from the genus fir ( Abies ) in the pine family (Pinaceae). The name is derived from the strikingly light gray bark compared to the Norway spruce ( Picea abies ) . More German trivial names such as silver fir and silver fir are misleading because the domestic North American silver fir ( Abies procera ) is designated as such.

Due to various ecological and economic influences, the population of silver firs in Germany and other countries in Central Europe has decreased significantly over the past 200 years. The ecological influences included infestation by introduced pests such as the silver fir tree aphid ( Dreyfusia nordmannianae ) as well as damage to peeling by red deer and damage caused by browsing by red deer and roe deer. The economic influences included clear-cutting , overuse and the preference for spruce in silviculture. An essential factor for the higher sensitivity of Central European silver firs is the variability of genetic variation, which is higher in the south than in the north due to the post-glacial migration history. Due to the current developments in climate change, the silver fir is becoming more and more important in forestry, as it withstands drought comparatively well and does not fail even at higher temperatures.

The species is extremely shade-tolerant, grows rapidly and especially well into old age and can live for over 500 years. It has all the characteristics of a climax tree species , but it is limited in its competitiveness in extremely dry locations and in continental locations with very cold winters and severe late frosts. It is a dominant tree in optimal locations with fresh, cool, more or less base-rich, humus, stony and loamy soils in the humid, warm summer locations of the montane and lower subalpine altitudes. It is considered to be the most sensitive native tree species and is attacked by a large number of pests. Above all, it reacts sensitively to pollution with sulfur dioxide , which, however, has only occurred in low air concentrations since the flue gas desulphurisation for large fire systems introduced in the 1980s . Compared to the location it is relatively undemanding and can withstand prolonged oppression in youth without loss of growth.

The wood of the silver fir is similar to that of the common spruce, but is more resistant to moisture and is therefore often used in earthworks and hydraulic engineering. The species was also used in folk medicine. The silver fir was tree of the year in Germany in 2004 and in Austria in 2015.


Young branches of Abies alba are hairy. The needles have two clearly visible white stripes on the underside and seem to be attached to the branch with "suction cups".
Branch with needles


The silver fir reaches a height of 30 to 50 meters, in individual cases even up to 65 meters with a breast height diameter of up to 2, in extreme cases up to 3.8 meters. This corresponds to a trunk circumference of 6 to 12 meters. While the main branches come off in pseudo whorls, the smaller branches are arranged in a spiral. No short shoots are formed. The shape of the crown can vary greatly and depends primarily on the geographical location and the lighting conditions. Young trees that grow under optimal light conditions form a pointed crown. Overgrown young trees have a flat crown, but quickly develop a long, pointed to pointed cone-shaped crown after being released. In old trees, the growth in height of the top shoots is reduced, but the top side shoots still grow in length. The sustained growth in length of the side shoots creates a so-called “stork's nest crown”, which can also occur in young trees that have aged prematurely due to stress. The trunk is straight and cylindrical in shape. The branches go off horizontally. Dormant shoots can form sticky branches along the trunk .

Chromosome number

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 24.

Buds and needles

The blunt egg-shaped buds are light brown and free of resin. After budding, the few bud scales remain on the branches. Each shoot has a terminal bud at the tip and two to five lateral buds arranged directly below it. First-order shoots develop up to 10 lateral buds in young trees and 2 to 3 lateral buds in old trees. Female flower buds are formed on the top of the shoot instead of vegetative buds. Male flower buds are found on the underside of the shoot in the needle axes.

The short-stalked and leathery needles are up to 3 centimeters long and 3 millimeters wide. The size and shape vary depending on the age of the tree and the position of the needles in the crown. Light needles are shorter, stiffer and narrower than shadow needles. The top of the needle is dark green and the underside of the needle is pale green. Light needles have a rhombic cross section, while shadow needles are wing-shaped in cross section. They are arranged in a spiral on the branches and protrude radially on the top shoots and on the side shoots exposed to light. On shady parts of the crown, they are parted horizontally and anisophylly usually occurs , which means that the neighboring needles hardly differ in shape and size. With shadow needles , stomata are found in two white stripes on the underside of the needle. Light needles have stomata on all needle sides. The needles fall off after 8 to 12 years.

Flowers, cones and seeds

A ripe cone and the seeds that have grown together with the wings

The silver fir is monoecious-getrenntgeschlechtig ( monoecious ) and is in the free state of 25 to 35 and in the stock with 60 to 70 years reached puberty . Depending on the location, the species blooms from April to June, shortly before the new shoots appear. The 2 to 3 centimeters long male cones are colored yellow. They are found mainly in the middle and lower part of the crown on the undersides of previous year's shoots. The 3 to 5 centimeters long female cones are colored pale green and are a little rarer than the male cones. They are found on the tops of strong previous year's shoots, especially in the upper crown area. They consist of horizontally protruding, pointed cover scales. Male and female cones are rarely found on the same branch. The 106.9 to 139.3 µm large pollen is dumbbell-shaped and has two lateral, more than hemispherical air sacs. Pollination takes place via the wind ( anemophilia ). Fertilization takes place four to five weeks after pollination.

The cylindrical cones stand upright on the branches and are up to 16 centimeters long and 3 to 5 centimeters thick. They ripen in September or October of the flowering year and are then green-brown in color. The upper, bent back part of the tongue-shaped cover scales protrudes between the seed scales. Each of the cone scales bears two seeds. After the seeds ripen in September to October of the flowering year, the seed scales fall off. The spindle can remain on the tree for several years before it falls off.

The brown seeds have an irregular triangular shape and are 7 to 13 millimeters long. The underside of the seed is shiny. The seed coat is resinous and firmly fused with a wing. This wing is relatively wide, triangular in shape and very brittle. The thousand grain weight is between 50 and 55 grams. The seeds are spread by the wind ( anemochory ). Only 30 to 60% of the seeds can germinate. The seedlings form four to eight 20 to 30 millimeter long cotyledons ( cotyledons ). There are two strips of wax on the top of the cotyledons.

Root system

An essential feature of the root shape of the silver fir is its durability, even in different locations. The pole root is clearly overgrown. The fir is therefore one of the deepest-rooted conifers, unlike the Norway spruce ( Picea abies ). Depending on the nature of the location, it reaches root depths of a good 1.50 m in Germany, and almost 3 m in the warmer parts of Austria. Investigations have shown that the roots of the fir grow far beyond their crown area and sometimes reach horizontal lengths of 10 m. Older trees usually develop strong, highly branched sinker roots on the side shoots that are almost as deep as the pole roots. This makes it very storm-proof and also colonizes more humid soils. Studies have shown that the silver fir among the conifers has the most common root growths. In a pitted fir forest in Croatia, root growth was found in 30 to 60 percent of the trees. In the plenter forests of the Swiss Emmental , around a third of the fir tree stumps between 10 and 20 centimeters are said to have grown together.


Resin bumps in the silver fir

Young trees have a smooth, light gray bark with mostly small resin bubbles, from which in the past the bump resin (from Middle High German biulharz , especially in relation to the resin from "bumps" under the fir bark of the silver fir) or fir leaf pitch (turpentine from the bubble-like cavities) was won. From the age of 40 to 60 years, a white to dark gray scale bark forms . This scale bark is fissured and has clear transverse cracks. The individual scales are 3 to 8 millimeters thick. The inner bark is reddish brown. Young shoots are densely covered with brown hairs.


Both the heartwood and the sapwood of the white fir are light and cannot be distinguished from one another in terms of color. The annual rings are easily recognizable due to the almost white early wood and the dark red late wood . The latewood content is usually very high and the latewood zones can form sharply outlined, tongue-shaped cuttings . Primary resin canals do not appear, but traumatic resin canals can occasionally be formed.

The wood is not very durable and hardly resistant to insect and fungal attack. It is more weather-resistant and more brittle than that of the Norway spruce ( Picea abies ). If left untreated, it turns gray when exposed to air. It is easy to process, impregnate, split and glue.

Parameter value unit
mean density (r 0 ) 0.41 g / cm³
Shrinkage (volume) 11.5 %
Compressive strength 46 N / mm²
tensile strenght 82 N / mm²
Flexural strength 73 N / mm²

Large single copies

Firs are the largest and most abundant trees in Europe. Individual trees with diameters at chest height of over 2 m can also reach 60 m high. The currently largest European silver fir is in Montenegro in the primeval forest in the Biogradska Gora National Park .

  • Doria GTF - Biogradska gora, Montenegro. The tree was discovered in 2018. He has a chest height diameter of 2.3 m and is almost 60 m high. The wood volume of the tree is 75-80 m³. This makes the tree the eighth largest known conifer in the world.

Other notable silver firs are:

  • Height 56.1 m, BHD 129.5 cm, Dobroč National Nature Reserve, Slovakia.
  • Height 53.3 m, BHD 219 cm, volume 50 m³ (2013), "Große Tanne bei Waldhaus", Germany.
  • Height 68 m, BHD 380 cm, volume 140 m³, Black Forest (historical).
  • Height 50 m, BHD 207 cm, volume 65.3 m³. Prince Joseph Weiß-Fir in the Bavarian Forest near "Vyšší Brod." Received around 1839.

Distribution and location

Distribution area

Of all European forest tree species, the distribution of the silver fir coincides most clearly with the Alpine system (“European Mountain System” or “European Alpine System”), which means that its distribution limits are congruent with a historically connected sub-oceanic mountain area in Europe. It is distributed within this European temperate mountain belt from the Pyrenees to the Balkan Peninsula north of the so-called "Adamović Line". It is therefore absent in the colline steps of north-central Europe, in the subcontinental flatlands of Eastern Europe and in the typical Mediterranean mountains of southern Europe, where it is replaced by closely related vicarious and decidedly relict "dry firs" of the subtropical Mediterranean ice. In addition, the firs of the sub-oceanic climates in the Caucasus and in northern Asia Minor form their own families.

The western border of the main distribution area runs along the Swiss Jura over the western part of the Black Forest and Thuringia to Niederlausitz . Further to the west, partial deposits can be found in the French Massif Central and in the Pyrenees . The northern border runs a little south of Warsaw and through the border area of Galicia and Volhynia . To the south the species occurs as far as the mountains of the Balkan Peninsula and the southern foothills of the Apennines and Corsica . In the east the distribution area includes the entire Carpathian arch . Within the range, the species is only absent in arid areas and low-lying areas such as the Prague Basin , southern Moravia , the Hungarian lowlands and the areas west of Vienna . In the entire area of ​​distribution, the silver fir proportion of the forest area has declined sharply in the last 200 years due to various natural influences, such as infestation by new pests, and incorrect silvicultural treatment such as clear-cutting , overuse and the preference for spruce in silviculture . Plantings took place mainly along the north-west coast of Europe.

The silver fir is a species of tree of the oceanic and temperate continental climates . In Central and Southern Europe it occurs mainly in the mountains. In the northeast of the distribution area they can also be found in flat and hilly areas. The species can be found in Minsk from a height of around 130 meters. The upper limit of their vertical distribution increases from north to south and is around 800 meters in the Thuringian Forest , the Franconian Forest and the Fichtel Mountains , while it is 2,100 meters in the Maritime Alps . In the Pirin Mountains, the species can still be found at an altitude of 2900 meters. In the Allgäu Alps, it rises on the thumb in a bush-like form up to 1900 meters above sea level.

In the center and north of the distribution area, the silver fir is regarded as a shade tree, but in the south as a semi-shade tree . The species needs a frost-free vegetation period of around three months and a winter dormancy of at least three months. It requires an annual mean temperature of around 5 ° C. The silver fir is frost hardy to around −28 ° C. It reacts sensitively to late frosts, frost drought and low rainfall. The annual precipitation is - depending on the location - between 520 and 1,200 mm. Places with annual rainfall of less than 800 mm are only settled if there is sufficient soil water . A good water supply is more important for this species than a good supply of nutrients and aeration of the soil. The species is soil-vague , so does not have high demands on the pH of the soil. They can be found on carbonate-rich substrates such as rendzinen as well as on low-base silicate soils and podsolized soils. It also thrives on glazed soils.


During the Würm glacial period , the silver fir was limited to a few refuges on the Balkan Peninsula , in the Pyrenees and the Apennines . There are also suspected some refuges in southern and central Italy and in climatically favorable locations in the southern Alpine foothills. The existence of refuges in the Pyrenees is questioned due to the homogeneity of western and central European origins. An occurrence of the silver fir in the Pyrenees before the return migration from Italy is confirmed by pollen analyzes . Pollen analyzes confirm that the species migrated back to Central Europe on three main routes from Northern Italy and the Balkan Peninsula or the Southern Alps after the Cold Age.

  1. The species migrated over the "Alpen-Allgäu-Weg" around 7,500 BC. From Northern Italy across the Central Alps to the valley areas of southern Switzerland . It reached around 5,000 BC over the Leventina and Lukmanier passes . The Surselva and a little later the Allgäu , the Bavarian Alpine foothills and the Lake Constance area . Around the same time she reached over the Reschenpass the Lower Engadine . It probably reached the canton of Valais via the Simplon Pass .
  2. The species migrated via the “Juraweg” around 4,000 to 3,500 BC. From the Apennines through the Rhone Valley to the Bernese Alps and the Swiss Jura . The Auvergne , the Black Forest and the Vosges were between 3,000 and 2,500 BC. Reached.
  3. The species migrated over the "Ostalpenweg" around 6,500 BC. To Lower Austria and further into the Upper Bavarian low mountain range , the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands , the Ore Mountains and the Sudetes . Whether this hike started from the Balkan Peninsula or the Southern Alps is controversial. A return migration from refuges in the Balkans is considered unlikely, since beech forests blocked the way to Central Europe during the Boreal and the Atlantic . Pollen analyzes carried out on Polish, Slovak and Czech populations confirm a return migration from the Southern Alps.


Mycorrhizal partner

The silver fir forms an ectomycorrhiza with several types of fungus . On humus soils, it is mainly formed by the trumpet chanterelle ( Cantharellus tubaeformis ), Cenococcum geophilum , Piloderma bicolor , Poria terrestris and the green chanterelle ( Tricholoma flavovirens ). On mineral soils, the chanterelle ( Cantharellus cibarius ), the black-dotted snail ( Hygrophorus pustulatus ), the white-leaved ripening blubber ( Russula azurea ) as well as various types of milk lice ( Lactarius ) and the genus Salmonicola serve as mycorrhizal partners . Other common Mykorrhizapartner are the Yellow amanita ( Amanita citrina ), the boletus calopus ( Boletus calopus ), the Flockenstielige bolete ( Boletus erythropus ), Cortinarius amigochrous , the Long-stemmed Schleimfuß ( Cortinarius elatior ), Cortinarius rhaebopus and Dichtblättrige Schwärztäubling ( Russula densifolia ).

Importance as a caterpillar forage plant

For the caterpillars of the pine moth ( Bupalus piniaria ), the pine moth ( Dendrolimus pini ), the nun ( Lymantria monacha ), the nun ( Panthea coenobita ) and the pine owl ( Panolis flammea ), the silver fir is an important forage plant.


The highest fir densities are found in oceanic to sub-continental mountains. In the Sutjeska National Park in the oceanic Dinarides of Bosnia, this dominates the Peručica primeval forest, which is considered to be the forest richest in firs in Europe.
Mixed forest with fir trees
Karst log fir forests of the silver fir are open forests of sub-Mediterranean karst mountains in Southeastern Europe

In the natural range, you can only find pure fir forests (Abietum) where the red beech ( Fagus sylvatica ) is no longer competitive due to extreme environmental conditions and the common spruce ( Picea abies ) is already falling out in the seeding phase. In the pure fir forests, three ecologically different groups are distinguished:

  • Pure stands of the continental-toned climate from the plain to the montane altitude level, which occur on more or less base-rich soils. The European beech is missing here due to the climatic conditions.
  • Pure stands of the montane to subalpine altitude range with high precipitation, which occur on clay-rich and rather lime-poor soils.
  • Pure stands of the submontane to montane altitude range, which occur on waterlogged and often acidic soils.

Naturally occurring fir-beech forests (Abieti-Fagetum) can be found in the oceanic climatic area of ​​the Alpine region . They colonize humid locations and require high amounts of precipitation. On lime, dolomite and poorly clayey moraines , deciduous trees dominate, while on silicate rock, flysch , clay-rich slate and compacted, skeleton-poor moraines, the silver fir dominates. From the upper montane to the subalpine altitude, the proportion of beech trees in the forests decreases and the proportion of spruce increases. At these altitudes, the spruce-fir forests (Abieti-Piceetum) dominate and are divided into several sub-societies. In the spruce and fir forests, in addition to the white fir and the common spruce, the sycamore maple ( Acer pseudoplatanus ), the European larch ( Larix decidua ) and the mountain pine ( Pinus mugo ) occur. This society settles humid locations with fresh and deep loam or clay soils.

In the sub-Mediterranean, subtropical zone of the Dinaric Mountains, the silver fir can appear as a monodominant forest pioneer tree on massive carbonate rocks in karst log heaps-fir forests in a special warmth and light-loving society. Locations are strongly karstified mountains in the oromediterranean suffe , which appear in the northwest Dinarides as a variant rich in spruce by the society of the Calamagrostio-Abietum Horvat , in the southeast Dinarids in the Rhamno-Abietum Fukarek as a hazel-rich variant. In such locations, beech mostly falls out and numerous heat-loving shrub and bush formations occur characteristically. With this type of fir forest, the transition to the warmth-loving nemoral Mediterranean fir forests takes place, which are then built up by vicarious species related to the silver fir.



White fir wood
Trunks of white fir trees from Gersbach (Schopfheim) support the largest self-supporting wooden roof in the world (area: 16,000 m² ≈ 2 football fields) at the Expo 2000

The wood of the silver fir is mainly used for the production of fiber boards , veneers , boxes, masts, furniture, pallets, plywood and chipboard and as a raw material for the pulp and paper industry. It is a popular wood for the manufacture of windows, floors, doors and paneling.

Since it does not shrink or swell even with constant or changing humidity, it is more suitable for earthworks and hydraulic engineering than spruce wood . Because of its high weight and the ring peeling , it is little appreciated by carpenters, but is still used as building and construction timber. Because of its good cleavability, it is well suited for making shingles . As it is resin-free and relatively insensitive to alkalis and acids, it is also suitable for the manufacture of containers for the chemical industry. In the manufacture of musical instruments, fir wood is used as a soundboard and to make organ pipes . Up to the end of the 19th century the wood was also used in shipbuilding, especially large straight trunks were used as masts. ( see main article: Fir wood )

Secondary use

The use of the young trees as Christmas trees is very common . However, the proportion of the most popular types of Christmas tree varies from region to region. However, Nordmann firs are mostly grown throughout Europe . Even in the fir-rich alpine country of Austria, native silver firs and spruces together only cover 23 percent of Christmas tree production, while Nordmann firs cover 49 percent of the market. Only a small part of the Austrian Nordmann firs come from imports, as domestic production companies offer the majority of the 2.35 million Christmas trees offered in Austria. The overall market value of Christmas tree production in Austria for domestic firs and spruces is 4.83 million euros, and that of Nordmann firs is 34.3 million euros.


The silver fir has been used as a medicinal and medicinal plant since ancient times. In medieval herbal medicine, the species was considered a symbol of power. The needles, shoots, cones, seeds and resin were mainly used. The resin was used to accelerate wound healing and treat rheumatism . It was also said to have a beneficial effect on blood circulation. Chewing the resin should strengthen the gums and help prevent tooth decay. Infusions, so-called "fir beer", were administered against scurvy in the 16th and 17th centuries . Sebastian Kneipp recommended fir tea made from fresh shoots to promote expectoration in the case of coughs and mucus and to strengthen the lungs. Templin oil was obtained from the cones by steam distillation , which was used externally against conjunctivitis , bruises , sore muscles and muscle strains . According to other sources, an infusion of young twigs and their needles is effective for urinary tract problems. The bark and wood of silver fir are rich in antioxidant polyphenols . Six phenolic acids were identified ( gallic acid , homovanillic acid , protocatechuic acid , p-hydroxybenzoic acid , vanillic acid and p-coumaric acid ), three flavonoids ( catechin , epicatechin and catechin tetramethyl ether ) and eight lignans (taxiresinol, 7- (2-methyl-3,4-dihydroxytranet 5-yloxy) -Taxiresinol, Secoisolariciresinol , Laricinresinol, Hydroxymatairesinol , Isolariciresinol, Matairesinol and Pinoresinol ). The extract from the trunk of the white fir tree has been shown to prevent arteriosclerosis in guinea pigs and to have a cardioprotective effect in isolated rat hearts. It was also found that wood extracts reduce the postprandial glycemic response (concentration of sugar in the blood after meals) in healthy volunteers.

Diseases and pests

Game browsing

Young silver fir with heavy game bites

The browsing by ungulates, mainly by deer ( Capreolus capreolus ), red deer ( Cervus elaphus ) and chamois ( Rupicapra rupicapra ) can reach large proportions of young firs. Compared to spruce and red beech , the silver fir is preferred to be bitten, so that it lags behind in height growth in mixed rejuvenations with these tree species and is ultimately displaced by them. In many places, game browsing prevents the silver fir from rejuvenating completely. In addition , deer particularly like to sweep young fir trees and in winter red deer can cause peeling damage to poles.

Harmful fungi

The silver fir is attacked by a large number of harmful fungi that cause damage, especially in damp hollows and dense stands. The common honey fungus ( Armillaria mellea ) is widespread and mainly attacks the roots of weakened trees, where it can cause white rot .

Melampsorella caryophyllacearum , the causative agent of the pine cancer , attacks the young needles and twigs. Infested trees are called "wheel firs". In the event of an infestation, fiber defects in the wood and cracks in the bark of the affected branches occur in addition to thickening. If the trunk is infested, the quality of the wood suffers greatly. Furthermore, there is the formation of witch brooms with small, squat, light-colored needles that fall off after a year. In spring, the witch's brooms begin to drift a few weeks before the normal shoot. Numerous spore containers form on the underside of the needle.

The fir fire sponge ( Phellinus hartigii ) penetrates the trunk through injuries and stumps and causes white rot, which can lead to crown and trunk fractures. It also often occurs as a secondary pest in a pine cancer infestation. Lirula nervisequia , the causative agent of the pine shed , occurs mainly in dense young stands in damp locations. It causes needle losses, but these are of no economic importance. Its infestation can be weakened by thickening care. Other pathogens causing needle diseases are Herpotrichia parasitica and Kabatina abietis .

The economic importance of the root sponge ( Heterobasidion annosum ) is assessed differently. He is of Holdenrieder as the most important Kernfäuleerreger viewed fir, while bulk returns the storm resistance of silver fir on their resistance to the root sponge. Pucciniastrum epilobii mainly affects the young needles, but is of little importance. Core rot occurs less often in the silver fir than in the common spruce ( Picea abies ). One reason for this is probably the wet core that occurs frequently in silver firs . The lack of oxygen in the wet core prevents or at least inhibits fungal growth.

Fir mistletoe ( Viscum album subsp. Abietis )

Vegetable pests

A conspicuous semi-parasite is the pine mistletoe ( Viscum album subsp. Abietis ), which is mainly spread by birds. The pine mistletoe forms sinker roots, which penetrate the xylem of the branches and supply the plant with nutrients and water. Damage is mainly caused by the disruption of the water balance and loss of vitality of the host tree. In addition, the ability to assimilate carbon dioxide decreases and the trunk wood loses its value.

Insect pests

Branch infected by the pine shoot moth (
Choristoneura murinana )

The most important insect pests include bark beetles and plant lice from the Adelgidae family . The crooked pine bark beetle ( Pityokteines curvidens ) colonizes the bark of weakened or dying trees that have a trunk diameter of more than 16 centimeters. In the event of prolonged drought stress , it also attacks healthy trees. Large-scale damage to thickets and poles is caused by the small pine bark beetle ( Cryphalus picae ) and the medium pine bark beetle ( Pityokteines vorontzowi ), which mainly attack the crown area. Trees that are weakened by immissions, drought and other stress factors are particularly affected, which then leads to resin flow and the formation of resin droplets. At the beginning, fine drill dust can be seen on the affected branches. The giant bast beetle ( Dendroctonus micans ) causes damage to the base of the trunk and the roots of living old trees. The pine weevil ( Pissodes piceae ) creates its up to 50 centimeter long larval ducts at the base of 40 to 100 year old fir trees . The first sign of an infestation is the appearance of individual drought with red-colored needles in the lower crown area. The shiny green jewel beetle ( Eurythyrea austriaca ) mainly attacks old fir trees. The ribbed room-goat ( Acanthocinus reticulatus ) can be found on dying fir trunks . The tufted tufted billybuck ( Pogonocherus ovatus ) can be found on the freshly dead branches of living fir trees.

The larvae of the plant louse Dreyfusia merkeri, native to Central Europe , as well as those of the silver fir tree louse ( Dreyfusia nordmannianae ) introduced from the Caucasus suckle on the thin bark of young shoots and on this year's needles. The cambium is damaged by this suction and drive deformations occur. The needles yellow and fall off. Several years of infestation can result in parts of the crown but also the whole tree killing off. Young trees in particular are attacked without adequate shade.

The caterpillars of the pine shoot moth ( Choristoneura murinana ) feed on the young needles in the crown area of old fir trees . It is not uncommon for mass reproductions to occur that can last up to 10 years. Repeated feeding leads to the formation of spherical and light crowns as well as to shoot curvatures. The fir-glass winged ( Synanthedon cephiformis ) lives exclusively on the silver fir. Its caterpillars develop on the pine shrimp of infested trees. The spanner Thera vetustata , which is known from southern Bavaria, seems to be closely linked to the silver fir.

Abiotic harmful factors

Although the silver fir tolerates waterlogged soils, it is sensitive to flooding. Due to its deep root system, it is not very sensitive to drought. The occurrence of the species is also limited by late frosts and frost drought . The fact that there are different views about the storm resistance of the species can be explained by the different root development in pure and mixed stands as well as on the basis of location differences.

The silver fir is considered to be the most pollutant native tree species. It reacts particularly sensitively to sulfur dioxide : Damage occurs from an exposure of 0.05 mg / m³ air. When exposed to heavy loads, the young needles of the peripheral parts of the crown and the top of the crown turn reddish-brown and necrosis occurs at the needle tips. Furthermore, the resistance to sharp winter frosts decreases. Such damage occurs mainly in exposed locations in the direction of the wind and in high fog locations . In the years from 1960 to 1990 in particular, many fir trees died because large amounts of sulfur dioxide were released at that time. After the desulphurisation of large combustion systems was implemented in the 1980s, the fir stocks were able to recover. Today, damage caused by sulfur dioxide only plays a subordinate role. The symptoms of pollutant damage are similar to those of fir dying and cannot be clearly separated from it.

Fir dying

The fir dying is a complex disease , the 19th century in the Alps was first described in the end regions of the north. The disease first occurred only on the northern border of the silver fir, but is now also represented in the main distribution area. It occurs mainly on old trees, but also on poles. The symptoms are similar to those of a serious disturbance in the water supply. There are Klebäste formed the crown thinned and the trees already form a stork's nest crown at a relatively young age. The regenerative capacity of the fine root system decreases and the mycorrhization changes. A brown-red, sour-smelling wet core is also formed, which is colonized by bacteria and disrupts the transport of water. The fir dying is likely triggered by the appearance of one or more stressors.


The silver fir was first described by Philip Miller as Abies alba in 1768 . Synonyms for the species are Abies nobilis A. Dietr. , Abies pectinata (Lam.) DC. and Pinus picea L. The species is diploid, its chromosome number is 2n = 24.

Common names

Various folk names, often only used regionally, exist or existed for the silver fir. The following names are or were also used: Danenbuchen ( Transylvania ), Dann ( Altmark , Siebenbürgen), Danne ( Hanover and Middle High German ), Dennenholz ( late Middle High German ), Edeldann ( Weser ), Edeltane , Feichte ( Austria , Tyrol , Salzburg , Styria , Bavaria ), spruce , Greinenholt ( East Friesland ), cross fir , light tree (Bavaria), mast tree ( Silesia ), mast fir , smoked fir , silver fir ( Swabia ), tan tree ( Old High German ), Tann , Tanna (Old High German), fir (Silesia, Lower Saxony , Carinthia and Old high German), Tannenbaum ( Alsace ), fir wood , tannin wood (Old high German), Taxbaum (Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol), taxes (Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol), Taxtanne (Silesia), Tenninholz (middle high German), wishing tenr , forest pine , Silver fir (Alsace, Appenzell ), weather fir and Wittdann (Weser).

Differences of origin

Although there are differences in the silver fir depending on its origin, the species is not divided into subspecies or varieties . Trees from south-east Europe differ genetically from those from the western and south-western range; their vigor is higher and they are more ecologically adaptable. Trees from Central and Western Europe only differ in the composition of the monoterpenes of the coniferous resin. One of the reasons for the intra-species differences could be a primary selection due to the different climatic conditions in the ice age refuges. Other causes could be secondary selection due to the length and duration of the return migration as well as competing tree species. Hybridization with the Greek fir ( Abies cephalonica ) and the Nebrodi fir ( Abies nebrodensis ), which occurred during the last Ice Age in Greece and southern Italy, could have an influence on the differences in origin .


The Bulgarian fir ( Abies borisii-regis ) is sometimes viewed as a naturally occurring hybrid between the silver fir and the Greek fir ( Abies cephalonica ). Successful attempts at crossing were found with the Colorado fir ( Abies concolor ), the coastal fir ( Abies grandis ), the Nikko fir ( Abies homolepis ), the Nordmann fir ( Abies nordmanniana ), the Numidian fir ( Abies numidica ), the Spanish fir ( Abies pinsapo ) and Veitch's fir ( Abies veitchii ). The Sierra fir ( Abies concolor var. Lowiana ) and the Korean fir ( Abies koreana ) are not considered to be crossable with the silver fir .

Silvicultural features

The silver fir reproduces only through seeds. However, grafting and rooting from cuttings are possible. Favorable soils for seeding silver firs are moderately fresh, acidic and humus-rich topsoils with a loose and species-poor layer of herbs or a covering layer of moss. In the high-montane and sub-alpine spruce-fir forests , the silver fir develops best under the umbrella of the spruce. The silver fir is well suited for pre-cultivation and should be planted under the umbrella of the old stand several years before the main tree species. Cultivation under pre-grown pioneer tree species is possible. However, the species is unsuitable for afforestation of bald areas.

The silver fir is superior to all other native tree species, especially on cold, wet and clayey soils. Growth is very slow in shady locations. However, prolonged suppression has no negative impact on later growth. The species is fast-growing for a long time under favorable lighting conditions. Under these conditions, height growth stops at around 130 years. For optimal development, the species needs a long, vital crown , as is the case with tiered stand structures. Plenter forests are well suited for young firs due to their limited lighting conditions and the humid climate. The Plenterwald and the Femelwald correspond most closely to the natural regeneration process in fir forests. In silviculture, it is also well suited as a mixed tree species to the common beech ( Fagus sylvatica ) due to its shade tolerance .

In the silver fir, top performance and failure are very close, as they are very sensitive to environmental changes. In good locations, a 120-year old stand can bring in more than 2000  m³ of solid wood per hectare . The annual increase in solid wood can reach up to 26 m³ per hectare and year on such locations. However, such increases only occur in good years and are rather the exception. The average growth of the silver fir in Germany is 16 m³ per hectare and year.

Hazard and protection

The silver fir is in the red list of the IUCN out "not at risk" (least concern) (stable) with a "stable" trend.

In Germany , the silver fir makes up 1.7 percent of the forest area (183,000 hectares, as of 2012). The German fir area increased by almost 19,000 hectares between 2002 and 2012. The federal states with the greatest number of firs are Baden-Württemberg with 8 percent (106,000 hectares) and Bavaria with 2.3 percent (57,000 hectares) of fir trees in the forests. In all other German federal states it occurs only rarely with a total of 20,000 hectares of fir trees. In Germany, the silver fir is listed as "endangered" (level 3) on the Red List, with air pollution and game browsing being given as the main risk factors. The species is not particularly protected in the Federal Species Protection Ordinance.

In Switzerland , where it covers 12.6 to 14.8 percent of the forests, it is classified as “not endangered” by the Federal Office for the Environment .

In Austria the silver fir takes up 2.4 percent of the forest area and is classified as "endangered".

See also


  • Contributions to the fir . In: Bavarian State Institute for Forests and Forestry (Hrsg.): LWF knowledge . No. 45 , 2004, ISSN  0945-8131 .
  • Schütt, Weisgerber, Schuck, Lang, Stimm, Roloff: Lexicon of Conifers . Nikol, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-933203-80-5 , p. 1-18 .
  • Wolf Hockenjos: Christmas trees . DRW-Verlag, Leinfelden-Echterdingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-87181-723-6 .

Web links

Commons : White Fir  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: silver fir  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on July 28, 2010 .