Jerry F. Franklin
Noble fir (Abies procera), also known as red fir and white fir, is an impressive true fir limited to the Cascade Range and Coast Ranges of the Pacific Northwest. At maturity, it typically has a clean, columnar bole and short, rounded crown. Noble fir attains the largest dimensions of any of the true fir species.
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.)
Regularity: Regularly occurring
south to southern Oregon and the Klamath Mountains in northern Calfornia
[17,18,22,31,34]. Scattered populations occur on isolated peaks in the
northern Coast Ranges of Oregon and in the Willapa Hills of southwestern
Washington [17,18,34]. A few sources indicate that noble fir does not
occur in the Olympic Mountains [17,22]. It is cultivated in Hawaii .
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
Occurrence in North America
Trees with needle and cone characteristics of noble fir have frequently been reported in mixture with California and Shasta red firs (Abies magnifica var. magnifica and var. shastensis) from northern California north to the central Cascade Range in Oregon. Studies of weight of seeds, number of cotyledons, and chemistry of terpenes strongly suggest that the populations north of the McKenzie River differ from the remainder of the fir complex and lack the apparent latitudinal clines in these characteristics found in the populations to the south. In any case, the ecological behavior of the populations from central Oregon south resembles that of California and Shasta red firs much more closely than that of noble fir.
The northern limits of the range of noble fir have also been a source of confusion. Early reports placed noble fir on Mount Baker, in the Olympic Mountains, and at other locations in the northern Cascades. Subsequent investigators have not found noble fir at these Washington sites.
- The native range of noble fir.
up to 400 years, with a maximum of 600 to 700 years [1,15,19]. Mature
noble fir can reach 230 feet (70 m) in height and 45 to 60 inches
(114-152 cm) in d.b.h. [15,18,19,31].
The trunk is self-pruning and pillarlike . The crown is often open
and dome-shaped with short, horizontal branches . The bark of young
noble fir is thin but becomes thick with age [22,31]. Cones are erect
and generally 11 to 18 inches long [1,22,31].
Habitat and Ecology
Noble fir occurs in a maritime climate with cool summers and mild, wet
winters [17,18,25]. Annual precipitation is between 72 and 106 inches
(1,960-2,650 mm) [18,25]. Most of the precipitation occurs between
October and March, resulting in snowpacks of 3 to 10 feet (1-3 m)
[17,18]. The growing season in the Pacific silver fir zone averages 40
to 50 days .
Noble fir grows well on a variety of sites. It occurs on steep slopes
but grows best on gentle slopes and warm southern aspects [17,18,25].
Shallow or moderately deep loams support good growth . Inceptisols
and Spodosols are common. Soils are typically developed in volcanic
parent materials [18,25,47]. Water supply is apparently more important
than soil quality [17,18,24].
In the northern Cascades, noble fir is most common between 3,000 and
5,500 feet (900-1,650 m) in elevation. It can occur below 2,500 feet
(706 m) but is sparse [12,17,36]. Farther south near Crater Lake
National Park, Oregon, noble fir occurs from 5,500 to 8,000 feet
(1,670-2,425 m) .
Canopy associates not listed in Distribution and Occurrence are western
larch (Larix occidentalis), Brewer spruce (Picea breweriana), and
Alaska-cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) [2,9,18,20,39]. Understory
associates include huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.), vine maple (Acer
circinatum), devil's club (Oplopanax horridum), beargrass (Xerophyllum
tenax), dogwood bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), coolwort foamflower
(Tiarella unifoliata), vanillaleaf (Achlys triphylla), queencup beadlily
(Clintonia uniflora), and fairybells (Disporum hookeri) [4,9,20,28,47].
Key Plant Community Associations
Noble fir is often dominant in young, mixed stands . It occurs
primarily in the Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis) zone [15,17] and
less frequently in the western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and mountain
hemlock (T. mertensiana) zones [17,19]. Noble fir occurs with
Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and replaces it in the upper half of
the Pacific silver fir zone . Occasionally, noble fir occurs in
small pure stands .
Noble fir is listed as a minor or associated species in the publications
Plant association and management guide for the Pacific silver fir zone,
Gifford Pinchot National Forest 
Natural vegetation of Oregon and Washington 
The forest communities of Mount Rainier National Park 
Plant association and management guide for the Pacific silver fir zone,
Mt. Hood and Willamette National Forests 
Plant association and management guide, Suislaw National forest 
Terrestrial natural communities of California 
Montane and subalpine vegetation of the Klamath Mountains 
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
205 Mountain hemlock
206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir
224 Western hemlock
226 Coastal true fir - hemlock
227 Western redcedar - western hemlock
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
230 Douglas-fir - western hemlock
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
K001 Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest
K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest
K003 Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest
K004 Fir - hemlock forest
Soils and Topography
Noble fir can grow on a wide range of soils if ample moisture is available; water supply appears to be of more critical importance than soil quality. Spodosols and Inceptisols are most common. In one study of soils under seven upper-slope forest types, soils under noble fir stands had the smallest weight of forest floor (perhaps reflecting favorable decomposition conditions) and the highest levels of exchangeable calcium. Soils are typically developed in volcanic parent materials; volcanic tephra (ash and pumice) and colluvium, often including aerially deposited ejecta, are the most common materials. Profiles with multiple parent materials are often found because of multiple deposits of tephra. In the Coast Ranges, noble fir occurs on both volcanic and sedimentary bedrock.
Noble fir is generally found at elevations between 1070 and 1680 m (3,500 and 5,500 ft) in the Cascade Range in Oregon and 910 and 1520 m (3,000 and 5,000 ft) in the Cascade Range in central Washington. In the Coast Ranges of Oregon, it generally grows above 910 m (3,000 ft). It is occasionally found at much lower elevations, however, and shows excellent growth on such sites.
Habitat & Distribution
Adelges piceae causes swelling of live, sometimes swollen branch of Abies procera
In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / pathogen
Armillaria mellea s.l. infects and damages Abies procera
Foodplant / parasite
stromatic, clustered pseudothecium of Curreya pityophila parasitises twig of poorly developed tree of Abies procera
Foodplant / pathogen
hypophyllous perithecium of Sydowia polyspora infects and damages red-brown, then darkening, shrivelled, attached leaf (young) of Abies procera
Associated Forest Cover
Noble fir is a component of five forest cover types (4): Mountain Hemlock (Society of American Foresters Type 205), Western Hemlock (Type 224), Coastal True Fir-Hemlock (Type 226), Pacific Douglas-Fir (Type 229), and Douglas-Fir-Western Hemlock (Type 230). It is a significant component only in Type 226, where noble fir stands are recognized as a major variant.
Most noble fir is found primarily within the Abies amabilis zone (10) with lesser amounts in the Tsuga mertensiana (particularly in Oregon) and Tsuga heterophylla (particularly in Washington) zones. It is a component of many recognized plant community and habitat types within these zones (3,7,9). Noble fir presence by habitat type in southern Washington (9) is typical of the general pattern. Noble fir is poorly represented on colder sites in the Tsuga mertensiana zone and is scarce in the very widespread and environmentally moderate Abies amabilis/Vaccinium alaskaense habitat type. It is abundant in the relatively warm, well-watered Abies amabilis / Tiarella unifoliata habitat type and in the Abies amabilis/Xerophyllum tenax habitat type. Noble fir attains best development on sites characterized by rich herbaceous understories.
Understory plants associated with noble fir typically include an array of ericaceous shrubs and evergreen herbs. Shrubs (10) include rustyleaf menziesia (Menziesia ferruginea), Alaska huckleberry (Vaccinium alaskaense), big huckleberry (V. membranaceum), red huckleberry (V. parvifolium), ovalleaf huckleberry (V. ovalifolium), Cascades azalea (Rhododendron albiflorum), Pacific rhododendron (R. macrophyllum), and various currants (Ribes spp.). Common herbs include beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), two trailing blackberries (Rubus lasiococcus and R. pedatus), avalanche fawnlily (Erythronium montanum), queenscup (Clintonia uniflora), purple twistedstalk (Streptopus roseus), slim Solomon's seal (Smilacina sessilifolia), coolwort foamflower (Tiarella unifoliata), and white inside-out-flower (Vancouveria hexandra).
Diseases and Parasites
Insects reported as attacking noble fir include two bark beetles (Pseudohylesinus nobilis and P. dispar (15); a weevil, Pissodes dubious, sometimes in association with the fir root bark beetle, Pseudohylesinus granulatus; and a large root aphid, Prociphilus americanus. The balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae) does not infest noble fir to a significant degree (15), despite earlier reports of susceptibility (6). Adelges nusslini does infest ornamental noble firs in Canada.
Mature noble firs are relatively free of serious pathogens. Gray-mold blight (Botrytis cinerea) and brown felt mold (Herpotrichia nigra) cause some damage and loss of seedlings. Numerous foliage diseases-needle cast fungi and rusts-attack noble fir, but none are considered serious threats except on Christmas trees.
Butt and root rots currently known to infect noble fir are Phaeolus schweinitzii, Inonotus tomentosus, Poria subacida, and possibly Stereum chaillettii. Hepting (19) identifies no major root diseases that kill noble fir, although such pathogens may exist.
Trunk rots are occasionally important, generally only in over-mature timber. The principal trunk rot is Indian paint fungus (Echinodontium tinctorium). Others include Phellinus pini, Fomes nobilissimus, F. robustus, Fomitopsis officinalis, F. pinicola, and Polyporus abietinus.
Noble fir in the extreme southern part of its range is attacked by dwarf mistletoe, but this is apparently Arceuthobium tsugense and not A. abietinum (5). Mistletoe infections have been associated with extensive mortality of branches (5).
Bark is occasionally stripped from the lower boles of pole-size noble firs by black bear. In one 70-year-old stand, more than half the noble firs had large basal scars from such attacks.
Climatic damage to noble fir includes occasional snow breakage of tops and leaders (especially in sapling and pole-size stands) and windbreak and windthrow of mature boles. The species is very tolerant of exposed sites, such as are found along the Columbia River Gorge between Oregon and Washington.
Plant Response to Fire
After a clearcut, seedling density was greater on unburned or
low-intensity burned areas compared to areas that burned at moderate to
severe intensity .
Tree without adventitious-bud root crown
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)
The bark of young noble fir is relatively thin . Fire resistance of
larger, thicker barked trees is reported to be low [6,35] to moderate
[6,25,49]. The foliage of noble fir is moderately to highly flammable
Noble fir prunes well in closed, dense stands [1,18]. Stands dominated
by noble fir have the smallest quantites of forest floor material
(compared with stands dominated by other western conifers that occur in
its range), and accumulation of fuel is low [9,47].
After stand-destroying fires, noble fir and Douglas-fir are initial
Noble fir begins producing seed at 25 to 30 years of age, but
large-volume crops are not produced until age 35 to 50 [14,17,45]. Good
seed crops are produced at 3- to 6-year intervals [7,14,17,45].
Seed quality is often poor . Cone crops need to be medium size or
better for sound seed to exceed 10 percent . Cone and seed
collection, drying, and storage techniques are discussed in the
literature . Insects that cause some losses are also discussed .
Seeds are disseminated by wind. Seeds can be dispersed up to 2,000 feet
(367 m) from the source, but most fall within one or two tree height of
the parent [7,17].
Seeds usually germinate in the spring after they are shed [1,19]. Seeds
remain viable for only 1 year. A mineral seedbed in relatively open
areas is favorable for seedling establishment and growth .
Competing vegetation and frosts deter regeneration of noble fir .
As with other firs, initial juvenile growth is slow [16,17,27]. Noble
fir requires 5 to 12 years to reach breast height, depending on site
condition [16,18,27]. Growth from a sapling stage to maturity is rapid,
allowing noble fir to attain site dominance [27,43]. As the tree ages,
growth slows . Where they occur together, noble fir growth exceeds
Douglas-fir after 100 years .
Noble fir does not reproduce vegetatively .
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Immediate Effect of Fire
Because of its thin bark, however, it is assumed that young and immature
noble fir would likely be killed by moderate to severe fire.
Facultative Seral Species
Noble fir is a seral or pioneer species . It is the most shade
intolerant of the American true firs  and cannot regenerate under a
closed forest canopy [1,17,18]. Noble fir often establishes with
Douglas-fir [4,9,15,17,19]. It establishes after disturbances such as
wildfire that create major stand openings [17,22]. Even-aged stands are
common [13,43]. Noble fir is classified as intermediate in shade
tolerance. Overtopped seedlings of noble fir occasionally persist, and
in the Oregon Coast Ranges, seedlings sometimes establish in partial
shade . Noble fir is eventually replaced by shade-tolerant species
such as Pacific silver fir and western hemlock [9,17,22].
Reaction to Competition
Noble fir prunes itself well in closed stands and develops a short, rounded crown. This short crown, along with an apparent inability to form epicormic or adventitious sprouts, may be a factor in the decline and death of mature noble firs exposed to major stresses, such as along a clearcut boundary. The crown may be unable to sustain the tree when altered temperature or moisture conditions cause higher physiological demands.
Little is known about the rooting habit of noble fir trees beyond the seedling stage. Noble fir appears to be at least moderately windfirm, certainly superior to western hemlock and Engelmann spruce.
Life History and Behavior
Male and female bud burst occurs in May and early June, and is followed
by pollen shed in June and early July [14,18,21,45]. Pollen shedding
and female receptivity are well synchronized in noble fir [21,45].
Cones ripen in mid- to late September, and seed dispersal begins in
early October [14,21,45]. Seed dissemination requires wind action or
other branch movement to disturb the cone [7,21]. Height growth is
greatest in July .
Seed dispersed after snow covers the ground may germinate in and on the snowbanks the next spring, with essentially no chance for survival of such germinants.
Natural regeneration of noble fir appears to have variable success. In one early study, it was so rapid and abundant that it was used to support the hypothesis of reproduction from seed stored in the duff (21). Noble fir was disproportionately successful at regenerating in some small burns at high elevations, but it also failed to regenerate in one small burn where it consisted of 25 percent of the potential seed source (29). Competing vegetation may deter regeneration of noble fir on some sites (6).
Little information is available on regeneration of noble fir after clearcutting. On some clearcuts, regeneration is successful; on others, it can be sparse despite an available seed source. Stocking was found to be superior to that of Douglas-fir on three of five upper-slope habitat types in the central Willamette National Forest in Oregon (28). The 15- to 17-year-old clearcuts had 282 to 1,779 noble fir seedlings per hectare (114 to 720/acre), depending on habitat type. Growth was slow; noble fir reached heights of 30 to 51 cm (12 to 20 in) at 7 years. In summary, although development of good natural noble fir regeneration is possible, it is not yet predictable.
Early growth of planted seedlings is variable, depending on site conditions and stock. In one study, growth was slow; noble fir seedlings were only 8.4 cm (3.3 in) tall at the end of the first growing season in the field, half the height of Douglas-fir seedlings planted at the same time. Damage from browsing was much less on noble fir than on Douglas-fir, however. In a test of containerized noble fir seedlings, survival averaged 77 and 60 percent for containerized and bare-root stock, respectively, after 7 years. Total height after 7 years averaged 56 and 46 cm (22 and 18 in) for containerized and bare-root stock, significantly less than for Douglas-fir. Other plantings of noble fir have shown substantially better early growth than these two examples.
Seed Production and Dissemination
Seed quality is typically poor. Collections from seed traps in natural stands (equivalent to 54 seed years) had a maximum of 49 percent sound seeds; the overall average was about 10 percent. Seed quality is strongly correlated with the cone crop, which must be at least medium size before sound seeds exceed 10 percent (7). Most unsound seeds collected in seed traps consist of round but unfilled seeds, relatively small amounts being damaged by insects.
Possible explanations for the poor seed quality include inadequate pollen (especially in young stands and poor seed years), poor synchrony between female receptivity and pollen shedding (12), selfing, insects, and meiotic irregularities in developing pollen. The most important factors may be similar to those suggested for Pacific silver fir (24). Firs have unspecialized pollen mechanisms, long periods of pollen dormancy, a short time after germination when pollen tubes must develop and penetrate the long nucellar tip, and archegonia that abort quickly if unfertilized. These traits, plus a low number of archegonia, may cause the low percentage of viable seeds.
Noble fir seeds are not widely dispersed because of their weight, which averages 29,750 seeds per kilogram (13,500/lb) (25). Wind is the major agent of dispersal. Although the seeds can fly over 600 m (2,000 ft) (22), most actually fall within one or two tree heights of the seed trees (1). Thornburgh (29) thought that the local distributional pattern of noble fir was mainly controlled by limited seed dispersal capabilities coupled with low resistance to fire. Most noble firs in his study area were in bums that were narrow in one dimension. In one large burn that was wider than the others, noble fir grew mostly along the edges.
Flowering and Fruiting
Phenological data for noble fir at three locales and over 3 years show the following ranges in timespans (12):
Male bud burst May 7 to June 2 Female bud burst May 11 to June 4 Vegetative bud burst May 21 to July 5 Pollen shedding June 1 to July 5 Period of female receptivity May 25 to July 6 Initiation of seed dispersal Sept. 27 to Oct. 7 Slightly earlier dates have been recorded for some events (6). Timing of phenological events has varied as much as 2 weeks in 3 years at the same site (12). Events are typically delayed by 1 or 2 days for each 30 m (100 ft) rise in elevation.
Seven developmental stages have been identified for female strobili (12), beginning with bud swelling and ending with cone shattering. A period of early rapid growth coincides with pollen receptivity; this growth period does not appear to be as sensitive to temperature as earlier growth periods. Cone growth is generally completed by mid-August of the same year.
Development of male strobili appears to be sensitive to temperature and humidity; pollen shedding requires warm, dry weather.
Growth and Yield
The height growth patterns of noble fir have been described for young stands (17,23), for British plantations (2), and for trees up to 300 years (20). Young trees on good sites are capable of height increments of nearly 1.2 m (4 ft). Height-growth curves (fig. 1) show the ability of undamaged trees to maintain height growth to very advanced ages (200 to 250 years). Maximum heights are greater than 79 m (260 ft) on the best sites, and heights at age 100 (determined at breast height) range from 18 to 49 m (60 to 160 ft).
Figure 1-Height-growth patterns of natural free-grown noble
fir over the general range of site qualities (adapted from 20).
The largest known noble fir is 274 cm (108 in) in d.b.h., 84.7 m (278 ft) tall, and has a crown spread of 14.3 m (47 ft). Mature specimens are commonly 114 to 152 cm (45 to 60 in) in d.b.h. and 40 to 53 m (132 to 175 ft) tall.
Noble fir grows most frequently in mixed stands with other species, such as Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and Pacific silver fir. It has a greater volume for a given diameter and height than any of its associates and dominates such stands, contributing volume out of proportion to the number of trees. It does grow in nearly pure stands, however, and is capable of producing high standing volumes and good growth over a wide range of ages and site qualities (7,14). Sustained height growth, high stand densities, a high form factor, and thin bark all contribute to the development of large volumes of trees and stands. Volumes of about 1400 m³/ha (100,000 fbm/acre) are indicated at culmination of mean annual increment on site class II lands (for example, site index 36 m or 119 ft at 100 years). In the grove at Goat Marsh Research Natural Area on the southwestern slopes of Mount St. Helens in Washington, the gross volume of the best contiguous 1-ha (2.47acre) block is 5752 m³/ha (82,200 ft³/acre or 407,950 fbm/acre); this value significantly exceeds the best gross volume for an acre of Douglas-fir. British yield tables for noble fir plantations indicate that yields from managed stands should also be high (2).
The high form class (small amount of taper) of noble fir has been noted by many foresters and scientists (2).
Culmination of mean annual increment (MAI) appears to be relatively late in normally stocked stands of noble fir. Volume and, to a lesser extent, MAI increase rapidly in stands from ages 70 to 100 years. The approximate culmination of MAI for site class 11 (site index of 36 m or 119 ft) seems to be between 115 and 130 years.
Various comparisons of growth have been made between noble fir and Douglas-fir (7,17,23). Site index at 100 years for noble fir is almost always higher than for Douglas-fir on upper-slope habitat types. Despite the slower initial start, noble fir overtops the associated Douglas-firs. Yields of noble fir stands at various ages are 10 to 51 percent higher in board-foot volume and 56 to 114 percent higher in cubic-foot volume than shown in the normal yield tables for Douglas-fir stands of comparable site indexes.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Abies procera
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Abies procera
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1998Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Noble fir is a preferred species for planting or seeding within its
range . Based on 10-year performance, noble fir is acceptable for
reforestation of high-elevation stock in British Columbia with variable
results in productivity . In the Pacific silver fir zone, noble fir
maintains good growth in dense stands and is appropriate where summer
frost is likely to occur but should not be planted in severe frost
pockets of clearcuts . Noble fir is not recommended for planting on
sites with a slope of less than 15 degrees [4,26].
Noble fir roots deeply making it resistant to wind damage [1,6]. It has
a high frost tolerance and low drought tolerance [12,17].
Generally, noble fir does not suffer major losses from pests [13,16,17].
Noble fir bark beetle (Pseudohylesinus nobilis) is often associated with
root-diseased trees and can kill the tree [12,16]. Dwarf mistletoe may
be a problem requiring management action in some areas [11,12,16,17,41].
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Other uses and values
Noble fir brings a substantial price as a Christmas tree [1,16,22].
It is also utilized as ornamental greenery [16,18].
Noble fir is also important in watershed protection [18,22].
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
however, actual data varies with site [1,18].
Wood Products Value
[1,16,18,22]. It is the strongest wood of the true firs [14,17]. The
wood is suitable for light construction and pulping . High-quality
noble fir wood is used for moldings, sash and door stock, venetian
blinds, and veneer . The wood of noble fir is also a specialty wood
used for ladder rails and airplane construction because of its high
strength to weight ratio [1,16,17,18]. Noble fir wood is exported to
Japan for home building .
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. 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.
Abies procera, the noble fir, also called red fir and Christmastree, is a western North American fir, native to the Cascade Range and Coast Range mountains of extreme northwest California and western Oregon and Washington in the United States. It is a high altitude tree, typically occurring at 300–1,500 metres (980–4,920 ft) altitude, only rarely reaching tree line.
Abies procera is a large evergreen tree up to 40–70 m (130–230 ft.) tall and 2 m (6.5 ft.) trunk diameter, rarely to 90 m (295 ft.) tall and 2.7 m (8.9 ft.) diameter, with a narrow conic crown. The bark on young trees is smooth and gray with resin blisters, becoming red-brown, rough and fissured on old trees. The leaves are needle-like, 1–3.5 cm long, glaucous blue-green above and below with strong stomatal bands, and a blunt to notched tip. They are arranged spirally on the shoot, but twisted slightly s-shaped to be upcurved above the shoot. The cones are erect, 11–22 cm (4.3–8.7 in) long, with the purple scales almost completely hidden by the long exserted yellow-green bract scales; ripening brown and disintegrating to release the winged seeds in fall.
Abies procera is very closely related to red fir (Abies magnifica), which replaces it farther southeast in southernmost Oregon and California, being best distinguished by the leaves having a groove along the midrib on the upper side; red fir does not show this. Red fir also tends to have the leaves less closely packed, with the shoot bark visible between the leaves, whereas the shoot is largely hidden in noble fir. Red fir cones also mostly have shorter bracts, except in Abies magnifica var. shastensis; this variety is considered by some botanists to be a hybrid between noble fir and red fir.
Noble fir is a popular Christmas tree.
- Farjon, A. (2013). "Abies procera". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
- "The Plant List: A Working List of all Plant Species".
- "USDA GRIN Taxonomy".
- "Gymnosperm Database - Abies procera". Retrieved 2013-09-06.
Names and Taxonomy
Rehd. [31,34]. There are no recognized varieties or subspecies.
Noble fir hybridizes readily with California red fir (Abies magnifica)
[22,34]. Populations in southern Oregon and northwestern California may
represent hybrid swarms between these two species . Noble fir
occurring south of the McKenzie River is not genetically pure .