General: Pine Family (Pinaceae). Native, evergreen trees growing to 20 meters tall with a sharp, spire-like crown, the upper several feet often less than 30 cm in diameter, the plants often reduced to a prostrate shrub on exposed sites near timberline. Bark is smooth, grayish-white, with resin blisters, becoming furrowed only when the tree approaches a foot in diameter (or var. arizonica, see below, with a softer, corky trunk); branches with bark splitting to reveal a reddish-brown layer; leaf scars with periderm red (or tan in var. arizonica). Needles are 1.8-3 cm long, flattened, grooved and bluish-green waxy on the upper surface, 1-ranked and tending to turn upward so that the foliage of a particular branch appears flattened and as though no leaves were attached to the lower sides of the twigs; resin canals median, located between the upper and lower epidermis. Seed cones are 6-12 cm long, 2-4 cm wide, dark purple, erect and only on the uppermost branches. The common name refers to the distribution of the species in the subalpine zone.
Variation within the species: Taxonomy of the species is not settled. Abies bifolia A. Murr. may be treated within A. lasiocarpa or as a separate species (evidence summarized by Hunt 1993). A southern population system (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado) is sometimes recognized as A. lasiocarpa var. arizonica (Merriam) Lemmon (corkbark fir), or it may be identified as part of A. bifolia.
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