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Balsam Fir
Abies concolor
About Balsam Fir (Abies concolor) Nurseries Show All Photos White Fir (Abies concolor) is a member of the Pinaceae (Pine) family native to the mountains of western North America, occurring at altitudes of 900-3,400 meter. In California it is quite common in the Sierras and North Coast Range, with scattered locations in the mountains of southern California. It is a medium to large evergreen coniferous tree growing to 25-60 meters tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 2 meters. The leaves are needle-like, flattened, 2.5-6 centimeter long and 2 millimeter wide by 0.5-1 millimeter thick, green to waxy pale blue-green above, and with two waxy pale blue-white bands of stomata below, and slightly notched to bluntly pointed at the tip. The leaf arrangement is spiral on the shoot, but with each leaf variably twisted at the base so they all lie in either two more-or-less flat ranks on either side of the shoot, or upswept across the top of the shoot but not below the shoot. The cones are 6-12 centimeter long and 4-4.5 centimeter broad, green or purple ripening pale brown, with about 100-150 scales; the scale leafs are short, and hidden in the closed cone. The winged seeds are released when the cones disintegrate at maturity about 6 months after pollination. This plant prefers higher elevations and cold winters; it needs extra care if grown outside its native range.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
82 - 200 ft (25 - 61 m)


Growth Rate


Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Montane forests

Full Shade, Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
300' - 14460'

Annual Precip. ?
6.6" - 155.6"

Summer Precip. ?
0.25" - 5.98"

Coldest Month ?
9.0° F - 52.1° F

Hottest Month ?
32.7° F - 79.3° F

Humidity ?
0.57 vpd - 27.91 vpd

Soil Description
Prefers rich, forest soil with well-decomposed organic component derived from decaying wood. For garden purposes add redwood compost to soil mix.

Soil PH
5.0 - 7.1


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 25° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 3, 4*, 5, 6*, 7, 10*, 14*, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

Companion Plants
Trees: Maple (Acer glabrum or macrophyllum), Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), Cherry (Prunus sp.), Oak (Quercus sp.), Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi), and Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica) Shrubs: Manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.), Ceanothus sp., Dogwood (Cornus sp.), Flannelbush (Fremontodendron sp.), Currant/Gooseberry (Ribes sp.), Sage (Salvia sp.), and Huckleberry (Vaccinium sp.)

Wildlife Attracted
Species in the genus Pinus are host plant to the Pine White butterfly

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Deep Organic, Organic with Rocks

Prune in winter when wood boring insects are less active.

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: 1 mo. stratification. Abies seed storage life is less than one year unless kept refrigerated. Sow A. concolor in late fall as there will be less seedling loss to disease if the first growth

Common uses
Bird Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Botanical Names
Abies concolor var. lowiana

Common Names
White Fir

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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