Fir Trees: What Should You Know

Fir trees are, in fact, a genus of tree covering approximately 50 species. The needle structure on the branches identifies them from other pine trees. All species in the fir genus are evergreens and coniferous and grow tall and thin. The scientific genus name Abies comes from Latin, meaning “to rise”. However, they range in size significantly, from 30 to 260 feet in height. In contrast to spruces, cones from a fir grow upward. Fir trees are easy to grow and thrive in its northern hemisphere. They are hardy and tolerate a freeze well. Many species are popular as Christmas trees. All things considered, they are a popular tree across the Northern Hemisphere that is easy to grow and a great addition to any yard or garden.

So How Many Kinds Of Fir Tree Are There?

As mentioned above, fir trees classify over 50 species. The genus encompassing all fir trees is Abies, which is in the family Pinaceae. They are tall, straight trees that grow leaves or needles, depending on the species. Furthermore, the leaves and needles are soft and flat. The leaves and needles attach to the branches uniquely, which separates the fir trees from others in the Pinaceae family. Individual leaves/needles attach to the branches like a suction cup. Also, the cones grow upright sitting atop the branches like a candle. According to coniferousforest.com, they separated the Abies genus into 9 sections. We can find a full list of all these sections at this source. As an example;, the Abies section contains 8 species. Namely, these species include:

  • Silver fir
  • Sicilian fir
  • Bulgarian fir
  • Greek fir
  • Caucasian fir or Nordmann fir
  • Spanish fir
  • Algerian fir
  • Syrian fir

Even though we label other known trees as “firs” such as the Douglas Fir and Hemlock Fir, these species do not classify as Abies. These trees are from a different genus.

How Large Do Fir Trees Grow?

Fir trees are large and stand tall and narrow. After all, Abies means “to rise”, in Latin. An example can grow up to 250 feet in height. Due to the wide variety of species though, the maximum growth size has a significant range. They can be between 30 and 250 feet at full growth. The trunk diameter also has a wide range, from 2 feet to 13 feet. The overall spread of the canopy can reach 30 feet. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, fir trees are a medium growth genus. In other words, this means that a fir will grow 1 to 2 feet a year. 

What Does A Fir Tree Look Like?

Surely, the most important thing to note about a fir tree is that is an evergreen. This means that they will keep their leaves and needles throughout the winter. Year round, they will sport dark green needles attaching to the branches individually. If you were to feel the needles, then you would find a softer touch compared to a pine or spruce.

Fir trees are also a conifer. That is to say that they produce cones as their fruit. The cones can vary in size based on the species, but all of them grow upward from the branches. When the cones are present, this is the easiest way to identify an example.

The bark is ridged and dark gray. However, when the tree is younger, the bark is smooth and a lighter gray. 

All things considered, most fir trees grow in a triangular shape with the branches larger near the bottom and narrowing at its apex.

Where Can I Find A Fir Tree?

The triangular fir tree dwells throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. In North America, they primarily grow in the Western United States. For this reason, Oregon is the state boasting the most. The most common species of fir to find in the Western United States are the white fir and the noble fir. In Eastern North America, the primary species found is the balsam fir.

fir tree in snow

Europe and Asia are also home to an abundance of fir trees. The silver fir grows plentiful there. For this reason, Europeans use the silver fir in carpentry. You can find vast forests through almost all the southern mountain ranges across Europe and Asia.

Africa and Eastern Asia have their own unique species. However, these are in lower populations. Some of this population issue is because of deforestation the species found.

How Long Can A Fir Tree Live?

Fir trees live for an average of 60 years. They achieve full maturity at 20 years. At the present time, scientists have recorded some of 400 years old. Notably, they record of noble firs living to be 700 years old.

Can I Grow A Fir Tree?

Growing a fir tree is easy. To be sure, it is one of the main reasons tree farmers plan them to sell as Christmas trees. You should plant the seed in the fall, indoors and tended through the winter. In due time, the sapling will reach one foot and be ready for outdoor planting. As described above, they are a medium growing tree. It will grow one to two feet after planting. They like a moist, loose soil. To be sure, they are hardy. The strength of the branches protects them from harsh weather. Considering that they are evergreens, the needles and branches can protect your dwelling and garden. They look beautiful in a cluster or standing individually.

If you are interested in adding one to your yard or garden, then you have a variety of species for which you can choose. The species have great variety, in size, color, and fragrance. By all likelihood, you will find what best fits your needs.

It Is Time To BRANCH Out Into Some Fun Tree Facts!

  • 120 million trees are cut down for Christmas every year. A large majority of these trees are firs.
  • In fact, there are close to 350 million Christmas trees growing on farms in the United States. 
  • Hans Christian Andersen published “The Fir Tree” in 1944.

What Are Some Uses For Fir Trees?

Natural Uses

Like other trees, we can use fir trees for medicine. They can treat respiratory issues, colds, and fever. Although, we also know it to treat muscle and joint pain if applied topically. Native Americans boil the leaves to produce teas.

The fir tree is home to small birds like the woodpecker and squirrels. Likewise, owls have called them home. The wood is soft and smaller animals can create cavities for shelters.

In any event, the most common use for fir trees is as a Christmas tree. The fresh cut Christmas tree is a staple in many American and European homes. Many non-farmers can venture to tree farms and cut their own tree to bring home.

Artistic Uses

As shown above, Hans Christian Andersen probably has the most famous story “The Fir Tree”. The fir tree most likely slips into art, literature, and cinema by portraying the Christmas tree. Given that Christmas is so inundated in our culture, there are countless representations of the fir tree in modern art. Most children learn to draw a Christmas tree at a young age. The shape of the fir tree is beautiful and can create a lovely backdrop for both cinema and art.

Residential/Commercial Uses

In the past, we used their wood for weapons like spears and bows, as well as snowshoes and canoes. The limbs and branches created excellent shelter.

The wood is a softwood and is one of the most widely used types of lumber. We use it in different applications of home construction. The grain of the fir tree is straight, which lends it to easier painting and staining.

Because of the lumber’s strength and rot resistance, we have used fir trees to build boats and ships for many centuries. Its strength also allows their wood to be turned into furniture. We avoid most softwoods for furniture because they are not strong enough to withstand that kind of shape and use. However, the wood from a fir tree is unique in its strength.  

Wrap Up

All in all, the fir tree is a hardy tree that is easy to grow. It grows at a medium rate and should reach maturity in 20 years. The size of fir trees varies across its 50 species. However, almost all will all have the conical shape of a Christmas tree. The Abies genus is unique with its upward growing pinecones. Interestingly, the cones can range from brown to purple. They dominate the Christmas tree market because of its decent growth rate and soft needles. Furthermore, they also grow away from farms in abundance across North America, Europe, and Asia. If you live in one of these locations, it should be easy for you to find a fir tree growing near you.

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