silver fir defined in 1944 yearsilver fir - Silver Fir;
silver fir - This, the genus Abies of Linnasus (Family Abietaceas), is botanically one of the most distinct of the conifers, but this distinction is unrecognised in the popular names applied to its members in European tongues. The English name is a makeshift, equally applicable to many other conifers, and unsuited to many species of the genus; the American species are known in that country as firs The German, French, and Italian names are also applied to the spruces, which are superficially similar but botanically distinct. Even the botanical name was formerly used for spruces by many writers; it is of Latin derivation, but there is no general agreement as to which tree or trees were called " Abies " by the Romans.
The forester, however, will readily recognise the Abies Firs by the disc-like scars left by their needles when they fall or are pulled away. Another key character is the large erect cone, which falls to pieces as soon as the seeds ripen, leaving its bare axis persisting on the branches. The buds are usually large, round, and blunt, often resinous. Only long-shoots are formed, and the needles are spirally placed on these - an arrangement which is obvious on erect leading shoots or seedlings. But in many species, a twist in the leaf-stalk or leaf-blade, makes the needles lie in other patterns on the horizontal branches. The purpose of these patterns is to ensure the fullest possible utilisation of light; shaded branches often bear sparser needles, and the internal structure of the needles varies, with the pattern and also with the light intensity. This variation renders the identification of species difficult, but their leaves conform more or less to certain fixed types, and those described have been listed accordingly.
Except for a few rare dwarf cultivated forms, the Abies Firs are tall upstanding trees, pyramidal in habit, with clearly marked whorls of annual growth. The bark is thin and smooth, becoming slightly wrinkled and broken on old trunks. The male flowers are borne in leaf axils beneath the horizontal branchlets. The female flowers appear at the tips of these branchlets, as erect, globular bodies, which ripen in one season into large cones, which, break up in autumn, releasing large winged seeds. The cones of some species are distinguished by a prominent bract beneath each scale. The seedlings have about six cotyledons which are quickly followed by shorter primary leaves; after the first few years, growth is rapid.
Seed collection is complicated by the rapid seedfall, and must be promptly put in hand as soon as the cones start to turn brown; extraction from the cone is simple. The seeds are large (10,000 to the lb.) and retain their germinative power for a matter of months only. Seedlings are tender, suffer from frost and drought, and require overhead shelter. They are usually transplanted at two years old, and used in the forest as two-year-two, or two-year-three transplants. After planting, a year or two of " check " normally occurs, followed by growth of increasing rapidity.
Whilst the Abies Firs grow very quickly on land which suits them, they are somewhat exacting as to site.. They dislike acid soils, are frost-tender, need ample moisture, and pure air. Their roots go to a moderate depth, and they are wind-firm when open-grown, but liable to wind-break as soon as the stem becomes unsound. They stand very deep shade. In plantations they are either planted pure, under- planted beneath light- demanding species, or intermixed with hardwoods, with which they consort better than do most conifers. In pure woods, severe thinnings are needed to prevent the quick-growing young firs becoming too much drawn- out. They are not long-lived trees, and rotations seldom exceed 100 years; heights up to 150 feet are attained by some species in Britain, and in their native countries even taller specimens are known. Girths up to 20 feet are reached in Britain.
The Abies Firs occur throughout the northern hemisphere, but tend to be local and discontinuous in distribution. There are many species, often confined to small areas, and in certain cases dwindling towards extinction; one species is said to be now represented by one living tree only 1 In a wild state these firs form small pure woods in favoured situations, shading out other trees. Natural seedlings make slow growth at first under shaded conditions, but hang on for years and have good powers of recovery from suppression or accidental injury. Self-sown seedlings of imported species commonly occur in British woods and gardens.
The timber of Abies is one of the least resinous of softwoods, and one of the least durable. It is white or yellowish brown in colour, without distinct heartwood and, though reputed soft and weak, has reasonably good mechanical properties provided decay can be kept out by preservatives. Being non-resinous, it is especially suited for packing cases for dairy produce and fats, as it is clean to handle and there is no odour to taint them. It is also suited to indoor carpentry and joinery, finishing well with an attractive appearance, and for these purposes it is imported under the name of White Deal, a term more usually applied to Spruce wood. It can be split into match stalks. As a raw material for paper-pulp, cardboard, wall boards, wood wool, and similar purposes requiring large quantities of light-coloured, non-resinous, fibrous cellulose, Abies Fir wood is highly suitable and, as the rate of production in tons per acre per year is very high, it will probably be grown on a large scale with such ends in view. An interesting by-product of these trees is the " Canada Balsam a fine resin used in mounting microscope specimens, which is obtained from resin blisters on the bark of young trees.
Abies with Pectinate Branchlets, have their needles flattened into one plane or nearly so, on their horizontal branches; these needles are often of varying lengths, but the whole arrangement is regular in appearance. Figs. 4a, 5.
The European Silver Fir (Abies alba, Miller) (syn. A. pectinata). G. Weisstanne, Edeltanne; F. Sapin argenté, Sapin blanc; Italian, Abete argentato. This, the commonest of our Silver Firs, occurs naturally in the mountains of central and south-eastern Europe, where it is a valuable timber tree. Introduced into Britain about 1600, it has been extensively planted for ornament and timber, but does not thrive in our milder climate and seldom looks realty at home; it grows fairly well on high chalk downs in southern England, being apparently able to withstand drought provided the soil is not acid. Young plants so frequently fall victims to a minute sucking insect (Chermes) (syn. Dreyfusia) that this species is no longer planted commercially either in Britain or on the lowlands of Europe. Apparently the tree lacks vigour at low elevations, for the same insect attacks it in the mountains, but does not prevent its natural regeneration there; similar insects attack other trees in Britain (e.g. Douglas Fir), but the attack is seldom fatal. A. alba is distinguished from similar species by its notch-tipped needles forming a shallow V, hairy shoots, and non-resinous buds. Its cones take two years to ripen. Girths up to 20 feet are recorded. Fig. 3.
The Grandis Fir (Abies grandis, Lindley), G. Grosse Küstentanne; Giant, Oregon, or White Fir of western North America, is the species now most widely plantfed in place of the European Silver Fir. Its needles lie very flat, in one plane or nearly so, are blunt and notched at the tips, and of two lengths, the long ones being twice as long as those of A. alba; from that species it is also readily distinguished by its resinous buds. It is the tallest of 'the Abies Firs, reaching 300 feet in height in its homeland, the plains and valleys of British Columbia, northern California and adjacent states, where it forms' valuable natural forests. It promises well in Britain, particularly in the west, and produces an enormous volume of timber each year, when once established. It is also an attractive ornamental tree, retaining its foliage better than A. alba. Fig. 4a.
The Santa Lucia Fir (A. bracteata, Nuttall), of California, is a fare, beautiful and distinct species with long, sharp-pointed needles, and long narrow non-resinous buds. It is only grown in Britain for decorative purposes. The Balsam or Balm of Gilead Fir (A. balsamea, Miller), common in eastern North America, does not thrive in Britain; it is the chief source of "Canada Balsam."
A Japanese species, the Nikko Fir or Momi (A. brachyphylla, Maximowicz), closely resembles the European Silver Fir, from which it is distinguished by its grooved branches. It thrives very well as a park tree in Britain, and is possibly suited for commercial planting. Another Asiatic species in this group is the Indian Silver Fir (A. webbiana, Lindley), a handsome timber tree of the high Himalayas, which is not fully hardy in Britain.
Abies with Imbricate-Leaved branchlets have their shorter needles bent forward above the V-like gap formed by the longer needles on both sides, so that they overlap them, producing a fanlike effect recalling the feathers of a bird. Fig. 4c.
The Caucasian Fir (Abies nordmanniana, Spach.) is a handsome ornamental species, but suffers so severely from the same Chermes which attacks A. alba, that it is unlikely to have any forest value outside its homeland in the Crimea and Caucasus mountains. Its foliage varies with light intensity, shaded branchlets approaching the pectinate form, whilst in full sun the upper needles become almost vertical.
The Amabilis Fir (Abies amabilis, Forbes) or Lovely Fir, from the Cascade Mountains of California, closely resembles the Caucasus Fir, and has been grown in Britain as a park tree since 1830. A tree of rare beauty, it is scarce in nature and uncommon in cultivation, as no seed was imported for many years after its original discovery by the botanical explorer Douglas. Being an alpine tree, it is unlikely to be of forest value here. Its distinguishing feature is the odour of the bruised foliage, which contains a volatile oil scented like the Tangerine Orange. Fig. 4c.
Abies with recurved foliage have needles with the same general pattern as the foregoing group, but the upper ranks rise upwards as though swept by the wind, their tips becoming bent back towards, the base of the shoot; in this position they catch the light on all sides; on shaded branches they are less recurved. Fig. 4d.
The Nobelis Fir (Abies nobilis, Lindley), Noble Fir, Red Fir or Feathercone Fir, found on the Pacific seaboard of North America, in the foothills, at rather higher elevations than the Grandis Fir, is likely to prove equally important as a forest tree in Britain. Ornamental specimens thrive well in Scotland, Ireland and western England, and trial plantations are promising. The most striking feature of this Fir is its immense cone, a brown globular cylinder over 6 inches long, each scale having a large bract below it, with a recurved and pointed tip. Fig. 1g, 4d.
The Magnifica Fir (Abies magnified, A. Murray), also known as the Red Fir in California, closely resembles the Nobilis Fir, but k a mountain form occurring at higher elevations, and is less satisfactory in Britain, where it is used for ornamental planting. The two species are so closely related that they are frequently confused, and an intermediate variety (Shasta Fir) has been variously assigned to both species by different authorities. The true Magnifica has no groove on the upper surface of its sparser, thicker needles, and its cone-bracts are pointed but not recurved.
The Algerian Fir (Abies numidica, De Lannoy), one of the few African conifers, is found wild on the heights of the Kabyle mountains, where it grows on limestone soils in company with Cedrus atlantica. Its foliage is very distinct, the needles being short, blunt, and crowded, erect or recurved on well-lit branchlets, pointing forwards or slightly pectinate in the shade, and dark green in colour. It is hardy in Britain and makes an interesting ornamental tree.
Abies with radial needles are very distinct, the stiff needles projecting in all directions, little or no flattening of the foliage being apparent; these forms are probably very primitive. Fig. 6c.
The Spanish Fir (Abies Pitisapo, Boissier), Spanish: Pinsapo, is found only in the region of the Sierra Nevada, high, snow-capped mountains fronting the Mediterranean. Its short, stumpy, thick needles give the foliage a bizarre appearance, which is enhanced by the extreme regularity of the whorled branching. It is hardy in Britain, where so far it has only been grown for ornament; it is said to grow well on chalk.
The Greek Fir (Abies cephalonica, Loùdon), from the high mountains of Thessaly and the Peloponnese, is distinguished from the Spanish Fir by its sharply-pointed needles. It is hardy throughout most of Britain, a valuable ornamental tree, and the fact that it grows in association with Beech and Corsican Pine in the Greek mountains suggests that it might prove suitable for forest planting here.
Abies with irregular needles are intermediate between the radial or imbricate forms and the pectinate, the foliage having no definite pattern. Fig. 4b.
The Colorado Fir (Abies coticolor, Lindley and Gordon) is a tall tree with a wide range throughout the Rocky Mountains and their western foothills, with long loosely ranged bluish green needles, stumpy, very resinous, terminal buds, and oval cones without obvious scale-bracts. In some parts of its range the climate resembles that of Britain, and it has been suggested as suitable for forest use both here and also in Germany.
The Himalayan Fir (Abies Pindrow, Spach) is an important Indian timber-tree, distinguished from A. concolor by the brighter green of its needles, which all point forwards in a brush-like fashion. In Britain it has only proved hardy in the west. The same is true of the Cilician Fir (A. ctlicica, Carrière), another beautiful species which is distinguished by its prominent bud scales. This combes from the Taurus Mountains of Asia Minor, where it is known as " Illeden", and forms forests with the Lebanon Cedar, both representing ancient genera with a discontinuous distribution.
The large and interesting genus Abies may seem of more interest to the botanist and horticulturist than to the forester. Following on the comparative failure of the common European species in Britain, the Silver Firs are unlikely to be widely planted until the recent importations from western North America have proved their worth. But the fact that so many decorative species from all parts of the world have gained a place in our parks and gardens, indicates that the genus can thrive here under the right conditions, and the success of some forms on chalk soils may prove a point in their favour, as will their extremely rapid production of large volumes of soft, non-resinous, light-coloured timber.
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near silver fir in Knolik
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