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Plant Profile: European Silver Fir (Abies alba)

Fir European silver Abies alba branch 3This native of central Europe from the Pyrenees to the Carpathians and the Balkan Peninsula, is a tall evergreen tree reaching 180 feet in the wild but half that size in cultivation. The trees are conical when young but become flat topped with maturity and have horizontal branches that sweep upward at the tips. The needles are flat, ½ to 1½ inch long, and shiny dark green on top with two silvery-white bands beneath. Male and female cones are produced on the upper branches of the same tree in spring; large seed cones 4-6” long mature in the fall. The trees prefer a north facing slope with plenty of rain and protection from wind. Tolerant of sandy to clay soils with acid to neutral pH, European silver fir is shade tolerant, but can not tolerate atmospheric pollution. It is said to be the first tree used as a Christmas tree. Several cultivars are suitable for specimens or mixed borders.

Type: Evergreen tree

Outstanding Feature: Form

Form: Conical when young; rounded with maturity

Growth Rate: Medium

Bloom: Male and female cones are produced on the upper branches of the same tree; 3-6” long seed cones mature in fall

Size: 75-180’ H

Light: Full sun to some shade

Soil: Average, moist, well-drained, acidic to neutral

Hardiness: Zones 4-7

Care: Low maintenance

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed; stratification may increase germination.

Outstanding Selections:

    ‘Green Sprial’ (narrow, pendulous with side branches that spiral outward and downward)
    ‘Compacta’ (densely branched, globose, wider than tall)
    ‘Pyramidalis’ (tight, narrow form)

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