Trees to 20m; trunk to 0.8m diam.; crown spirelike. Bark gray, thin, smooth, furrowed in age. Branches stiff, straight; twigs opposite to whorled, greenish gray to light brown, bark splitting as early as 2 years to reveal red-brown layer, somewhat pubescent; fresh leaf scars with red periderm. Buds hidden by leaves or exposed, tan to dark brown, nearly globose, small, resinous, apex rounded; basal scales short, broad, equilaterally triangular, glabrous or with a few trichomes at base, not resinous, margins crenate to dentate, apex sharp-pointed. Leaves 1.8--3.1cm × 1.5--2mm, spiraled, turned upward, flexible; cross section flat, prominently grooved adaxially; odor sharp (ß-phellandrene); abaxial surface with 4--5 stomatal rows on each side of midrib; adaxial surface bluish green, very glaucous, with 4--6 stomatal rows at midleaf, rows usually continuous to leaf base; apex prominently or weakly notched to rounded; resin canals large, ± median, away from margins and midway between abaxial and adaxial epidermal layers. Pollen cones at pollination ± purple to purplish green. Seed cones cylindric, 6--12 × 2--4cm, dark purple, sessile, apex rounded; scales ca. 1.5--1.7cm, densely pubescent; bracts included (specimens with exserted, reflexed bracts are insect infested). Seeds 6 × 2mm, body brown; wing about 1.5 times as long as body, light brown; cotyledon number 4--5. 2n = 24.
The only unique populations in this species come from coastal Alaska (A. S. Harris 1965; C. J. Heusser 1954). They are found at lower elevations (0--900 m) and appear to be isolated with no reported introgression between them and the coastal mountain populations. The population on the Prince of Wales Island has distinct terpene patterns and needs morphological and developmental studies to see if these patterns contrast with neighboring populations.
FNA 1993, Martin and Hutchins 1980, Kearney and Peebles 1969
Common Name: subalpine fir Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Tree General: Trees to 30 m tall, up to 0.8 m in diameter, with a narrow spirelike crown; bark gray, thin, smooth, furrowed in age, with stiff branches, twigs opposite to whorled, greenish gray to light brown. Needles: Solitary, 1.5-4 cm long by 1.5-2 mm thick, flattened in cross section with a blunt apex, silver-blue to silver green, curving upward, flexible; upper surface bluish green, very glaucous; large median resin canals. Cones: Pollen cones purple to purplish green; seed cones cylindric upright on upper branches, deep purple, 6-12 cm long by 2-4 cm wide, sessile, with a rounded apex; scales densely pubescent, 1.5 by 1.7 cm. Seeds: Brown, 6-7 cm long, winged with wings 1.5 times as long as body. Ecology: Found on rocky slopes in mixed conifer communities from 8,000-11,500 ft (2438-3505 m). Notes: This species can be distinguished by its short, resinous, buds, flattened solitary needles, the circular leaf scar, and upright seed cones that shatter. In our region, A. lasiocarpa var. arizonica (corkbark fir), has a much corkier bark that is cream colored. Ethnobotany: Used ceremonially, smoked as a headache remedy, a poultice was used for chest colds, the pitch was used as an antiseptic for wounds, as a deodorant, an emetic, for fevers, for lung trouble from tuberculosis, as a veterinary aid, for influenza, colds, and a variety of other medicinal purposes. Etymology: Abies comes from the Latin name for silver fir, while lasiocarpa means having woolly cones. Synonyms: Abies balsamea subsp. lasiocarpa, Abies balsamea var. fallax, Abies bifolia, Abies subalpina Editor: SBuckley, 2010