Abies amabilis - Amabilis Fir




"Abies amabilis is an evergreen Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in leaf 12-Jan, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.
It cannot tolerate atmospheric pollution." [PFAF]

"This is a tall, evergreen, coniferous tree species found from Alaska south to northern California in forests with deep, well-drained soils."[IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Native.[E-flora]
General: "Tall, straight tree, up to 55 m tall, with dense cylindric or conical crown; bark grey to nearly white, smooth but becoming scaly with age, with resin blisters; branches flattened and spray-like." [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: "Needles flattened, blunt and mostly notched at the tip; shiny, dark green and grooved above, having two distinct silvery bands of stomata and ridged below; spreading to somewhat erect needles 1.5-3 cm long; strongly appressed needles on upper surface of twig 0.7-2 cm." [IFBC-E-flora]
Cones: "Seed cones erect, deep purple, 8-10 (15) cm long, 3.5-4 (5) cm thick, the bracts deciduous; pollen cones reddish." [IFBC-E-flora]
USDA Flower Colour: Yellow
USDA Blooming Period: Late Spring
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics: Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall [USDA-E-flora]

Habitat / Range

Moist to mesic forests with deep, well-drained soils in the lowland to subalpine zones; common in and W of Coast-Cascade Mountains, except Queen Charlotte Islands; N to SE AK and S to N CA. [IFBC-E-flora]

Ecological Indicator Information
"A very shade-tolerant, submontane to subalpine, Western North American evergreen conifer distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region (absent on Queen Charlotte Islands). Occurs in maritime to sub maritime sub-alpine boreal and summer-wet cool mesothermal climates on fresh to very moist soils; its occurrence increases with increasing elevation and precipitation, and decreases with increasing latitude and continentality. Grows in pure or mixed-species stands (usually with western or mountain hemlock) on water-shedding and water-receiving sites. Regenerates underneath closed-canopy stands, particularly on mycorrhizal Mors. (The mycorrhizae may explain this species' tolerance of nutrient-poor sites.) Most productive on submontane, fresh to moist, nutrient-rich (seepage) sites within wet cool mesothermal climates. Characteristic of wet maritime forests." [IPBC][E-flora]

Food Uses:

  • "... amabilis fir (Abies amabilis (Dougl. ex Loud.) Dougl. ex Forbes)... used in particular regions of northwestern North America for their edible cambium and secondary phloem" [Dilbone et al.] " The Haisla report using the "cambium" ofamabilis fir (Abies amabilis (Dougl.) Forbes) for food. Gordon Robinson states that it is similar to hemlock "cambium."" [Gottesfeld1992]

Other Uses:

  • "The Native American Ojibwa, who occupied the upper Midwest of the United States and parts of Canada, inhaled the smoke of burning leaves to treat colds (Smith 1932). The Nitinaht of British Columbia, Canada, burned the boughs and inhaled the smoke to prevent sickness (Turner et al. 1983)." [UAPDS]


"Requires a good moist but not water-logged soil in a sheltered position[1]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Plants are very shade tolerant[11, 81] but growth is slower in dense shade[81]. Intolerant of atmospheric pollution[1]. Prefers slightly acid conditions down to a pH of about 5[200]. Prefers growing on a north-facing slope[200]. Trees are somewhat shallow rooted and are therefore susceptible to strong winds[229]. Grows best in the Perthshire valleys of Scotland[11]. It does very well on glacial moraines in Scotland[81]. When grown in an open position, the tree clothes itself to the ground with gracefully drooping branches, though on the whole, this species does not grow well in Britain[11]. Trees have been of variable growth in this country and seem to be short-lived[185]. The best and fastest growing specimens are to be found in the north and far west of the country[185]. Growth in girth can be very quick, 1.8 metres in 35 years has been recorded[185]. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm in height. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance[200]. The crushed leaves have an odour like orange peel[11]. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly[200]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[200]. This species is often confused with A. nordmanniana[11]. A very ornamental plant[1]. Trees are sometimes grown as 'Christmas trees'[200]. Plants are susceptible to injury by aphis[11]." [PFAF]

Host species for the fungus Rhizopogon vulgaris [Chris walker,1999]

"Seed - sow early February in a greenhouse or outdoors in March[78]. Germination is often poor, usually taking about 6 - 8 weeks[78]. Stratification is said to produce a more even germination so it is probably best to sow the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn[80, 113]. The seed remains viable for up to 5 years if it is well stored[113]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on for at least their first winter in pots. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Alternatively, if you have sufficient seed, it is possible to sow in an outdoor seedbed. One report says that it is best to grow the seedlings on in the shade at a density of about 550 plants per square metre[78] whilst another report says that they are best grown on in a sunny position[80]."[PFAF]


  1. [E-flora]http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Abies amabilis&redblue=Both&lifeform=1, Accessed Jan 12, 2015
  2. [PFAF]http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Abies+amabilis, Accessed Jan 12, 2015

Page last modified on Friday, January 5, 2018 5:32 PM