Botany

Tree Profiles Noble Fir



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The Noble Fir is one of the most beautiful conifers of the Pacific Northwest.  Known botanically as Abies procera, it is native to the Cascade Mountain range and can be found in Washington, Oregon and northern California.  It grows in the middle and upper elevations of the range in mixed stands of other species such as Douglas-Fir, Western Hemlock, and Amabilis Fir.

The Noble Fir was first named by David Douglas, the Scottish botanist, in 1829.  It was  originally named Abies nobilis but this was soon changed as another tree was already called by that name.  Considered one of the most beautiful firs in North America, this stunning tree has blue-green needles and smooth gray bark and can reach 200 feet in height.  The shape of the tree is a rounded at the top and mature trees will produce large upright cones on the upper branches that shatter when mature to release winged seeds, which are a food source for many different species of birds. 

Although not a readily harvested timber tree, the Noble Fir is a favorite Christmas tree and is widely grown on Christmas tree farms.  It can also be planted in home gardens as a shade tree.  When grown in lower elevations than what it is native to, the Noble Fir is much more sensitive to fungal and bacterial blights that will shorten the life of an established tree.  To avoid this, the tree should be planted in very free draining soil on a slope to prevent water from collecting where disease causing pathogens may develop.

A few garden cultivars of the Noble Fir are available as beautiful ornamentals.  One such variety is a powder blue spreading type known as Abies procera ‘Glauca prostrata’.  This ornamental stays prostrate and will spread rather than grow upward although it may develop a leader as it grows older.  Upward growth can be discouraged by removing any leaders that appear.  The needles are a stunning blue similar to that of the Colorado Blue Spruce.   

The tallest Noble Fir can be found in southwestern Washington in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest with a height of 278 feet and a trunk circumference of 28 feet.  This area of southwestern Washington is near Mt, St, Helens where Noble Fir stands are known to flourish. 


Sources:

Little, Elbert L. National Audobon Field Guide to North American Trees. Syracuse: Knopf, 1980.

Pojar, Jim, Andy MacKinnon. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast.  Vancouver: Lone Pine Publishing, 1994.



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