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Abies bifolia

Abies bifolia

Abies lasiocarpa

Abies bifolia

Abies bifolia.  Synonym: Abies lasiocarpa. (Subalpine Fir)
Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, June 9, 2006;
Robertson Pasture Trail, Abajo Mountains, Utah, August 1, 2014;
Ryman Creek Trail, June 16, 2010;
and Lizard Head Trail, June 16, 2016.

Abies bifolia has thin, warty, silvery-gray bark on younger trees, and thicker and furrowed bark when the tree ages. The tree in the top photograph at left is about a foot in diameter; the trees in the bottom two photographs at left are four feet in diameter.

Abies bifolia has flat smooth needles with a longitudinal crease running the length of the needle.  As is true for all Firs, cones project upward from the top side of branches. (Pine and Spruce cones dangle downward from the bottom side of branches.)

Like Engelmann Spruce, Abies bifolia is contorted and dwarfed as krummholz (German for "crooked wood") at timberline.  Along with Engelmann Spruce, Subalpine Fir dominates subalpine forests.

"Abies" is the classical Latin name.

This tree was first described by Andrew Murray (1812-1876) in 1863 from a specimen collected in New Mexico by Benito Roezl (1824-1885).

There has been (and continues to be) disagreement about the name of this tree.  Weber at first called it Abies lasiocarpa, which is the name that Utah Flora and Intermountain Flora still give it.  Weber, Flora of North America, and Synthesis now call this tree Abies bifolia.  Weber and FNA indicate that A. lasiocarpa is found only in the Pacific coast states; Abies bifolia is a tree of the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains.

Abies bifolia and Abies concolor are the two firs in our area. Here are a few comparisons:
A. bifolia lower leaves are 2-3 cm and tend to be flattened and horizontal, those of A. concolor are 3-6 cm and tend to curl upward.
A. bifolia has dark brown to purple seed cones. A. concolor cones are gray/green.
A. bifolia is found from 8,000' to treeline. A. concolor is found from 6,200' to 9,000' (sometimes as high as 11,000').
In the western San Juans, A. bifolia is very common; A. concolor is uncommon.

Abies lasiocarpa

Abies bifolia.  Synonym: Abies lasiocarpa. (Subalpine Fir)
Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Lizard Head Trail, June 9, 2006.

New spring growth is soft and much lighter green than the green of last year.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Abies bifolia

Abies lasiocarpa

Range map for Abies lasiocarpa