Abies concolor (White Fir)

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During a walk along a roadside near a golf course, I said to my walking partner, “Oh look, there is a concolor fir!” 

Abies concolor, the white or concolor fir, is one of my favorite conifers.  Its longer blue-ish needles, when broken open or crushed, smell just like oranges or tangerines as you hold it up to your nose! 

“Wow,” she replied. “It does!”

I have always enjoyed showing this “smelling” aspect to customers when I worked at a garden nursery.  They would be pleasantly surprised to experience that orangey fragrance, so I would point that out as one fun id feature, plus the fact that firs have flat needles. 

“Think F for firs,” I would say.  “That equals flat needles versus the spruces which are rhomboid (squared).  Spruce needles roll in your finger tips.”  I never used cones as an id feature because it takes many years before they grow on this conifer.

Scott Haney on our local CT Channel 3 news television show mentioned the concolor fir during the holiday times.  It is an option for a Christmas tree should you be lucky enough to find one.  And concolor firs are great for your landscape too! 

The concolor fir’s mature height is 40 to 70 feet with a spread of about 20-30 feet.  This evergreen conifer is shaped like most christmas trees with a straight trunk and narrow-like conical shape.  Upper branches tend to grow up-ward.  The blue-ish soft “flat”  needles grow to about 2.5″ long and have a nice surface appeal to them.  They are not as stiff as with blue spruce needles. 

Light requirements for the concolor firs are full sun to part shade and it appreciates a rich soil with medium moisture, slightly on the acidic side.  It does not grow that well in clay soils.  And best of all, this evergreen conifer does not experience serious pest problems from what I’ve learned to date about it.  Plus deer are unlikely to browse them!  Another bonus.

In the landscape, it is well suited as a large specimen provided you have the conditions noted above on your property.  It maintains its foliage all the way to the ground and has a slow to moderate growth rate.  Hardy to zones 3-7.

People don’t often know about this conifer choice.  And due to its soft blue needles, in my opinion, it makes a nice alternative.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of it in my database.  I’ll have to snap one for you during my next long walk!  Cathy T

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