Abies procera, noble fir, is a large, evergreen, coniferous tree in the Pinaceae (pine) family, native to the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. Also known as red fir or white fir, it is an impressive true fir limited to the Cascade Range and Coast Ranges of the Pacific Northwest. Noble fir attains the largest dimensions of any of the true fir species, reaching heights of up to 85 meters (278 feet) and diameters of nearly 3 meters (9 feet). At maturity, it typically has a clean, columnar bole and short, rounded crown. (Pseudotsuga menziesii, Douglas-fir, also occurs in the Pacific Northwest but is not a true fir.)
Noble fir is found in the mountains of northern Oregon and Washington between the McKenzie River and Stevens Pass or latitudes 44° and 48° N. Most of its distribution is within the Cascade Range, particularly on the western slopes and along the crest. Isolated populations are found on peaks in the Oregon Coast Ranges and in the Willapa Hills of southwestern Washington.
The wood of noble fir has always been valued over that of other true firs because of its greater strength. Loggers called it larch to avoid the prejudice against the wood of true fir; the two Larch Mountains opposite one another across the Columbia River near Portland, OR, were named for the noble fir that grows on their summits. Because of its high strength-to-weight ratio, it has been used for specialty products, such as stock for ladder rails and construction of airplanes.
In 1979, noble fir constituted about 12 percent of the Christmas tree production in the Pacific Northwest and was priced (wholesale) 35 to 40 percent higher than Douglas-firs. As of 2009, it was the third most popular Christmas tree species in the U.S. (AGRMC 2011). Noble fir greenery is also in considerable demand and can provide high financial returns in young stands.
Like most true firs, noble fir is an attractive tree for ornamental planting and landscaping.
(Excerpted and edited from Franklin 1990.)
- AGMRC. 2011. Burden, D. Christmas Tree Profile. Ag Marketing Resource Center: A national information resource for value-added agriculture. Iowa State University online resource. http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/forestry/christmas_tree_profile.cfm.
- Franklin, Jerry E. 1990. Abies procera Rehd. Noble Fir. In Burns, R. M., and B. H. Honkala, tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Vol 1. Conifers. Agriculture Handbook 654. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. Available online from http://na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_1/abies/procera.htm.
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