Bayfordbury wildlife recording

Firs (Abies)

Figure
Korean Fir (Abies koreana)
shoot with a cone, November 2016
Figure
Greek Fir (Abies cephalonica)
shoot with large sucker-like bases
Figure
Grand Fir (Abies grandis)
shoot, Sailors Grove July 2013

We have over a dozen of Fir species in the Pinetum. Firs usually grow as tall trees with straight trunks. Their needles are typically (but not always) rounded (not spiky) at the tip and are attached to the shoot by little sucker-like bases. Their cones are upright and often disintegrate while still on the tree so that only scales reach the ground. Other tips on conifer identification are on the Identification/Conifers page. Below is a description of some of our very distinct Fir species.

Figure
Hedgehog Fir (Abies pinsapo)
shoot, January 2016
Figure
Grand Fir (Abies grandis),
January 2024

Grand Fir (Abies grandis)

In its native environment in western North America, the Grand Fir is one of the tallest forest trees. In the UK, it is a fast-growing species widely used in timber plantations. It can be recognised by the soft long needles arranged neatly in two rows and the fruity scent. Our largest trees are opposite the entrance to the Pinetum.

Hedgehog Fir (Abies pinsapo)

The Hedgehog Fir is the opposite of the Grand Fir. Its short, stiff needles are set all around the shoot (resembling hedgehog needles). According to the records, our tree might be of a rare variety endemic to Mount Tazaot in the Rif Mountains in Morocco.

Figure
Greek Fir (Abies cephalonica)
shoot, January 2024
Figure
Korean Fir (Abies koreana),
January 2020

Greek Fir (Abies cephalonica)

Unlike in many other firs, the needles of Greek Fir have sharp tips. But they also have large ‘sucker-like’ bases, making it easy to recognise this species as a Fir and not a Spruce.

Korean Fir (Abies koreana)

The distinct “pagoda” shape with horizontal branches arranged in layers and abundant attractive cones made this species very popular as an ornamental tree. Look for this tree at the bottom of the Pinetum following the walk along the stream. A small tree grows near the Oval at the College Lane campus.

References

Johnson O. (2004) Collins Tree Guide. HarperCollins, London, UK.

Christian, T. (2021), 'Abies pinsapo' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/abies/abies-pinsapo/) [accessed 2024-01-27].