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TREES & plants

White fir

Close up of white fir branches.

The white fir is a hardy and ornamental North American native evergreen. Its attractive, blue-green needles curve outward and upward on branches and, when crushed, emit a lemon scent. This choice plant tolerates a wide range of conditions, including drought, heat, and cold temperatures. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

 

Botanical name: 
Abies concolor
All Common Names: 
white fir, concolor fir, Colorado fir
Family (English): 
Pine
Family (Botanic): 
Pinaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
  • Massing
  • Screen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
Mature Height: 
30-50 feet
Mature Width: 
15-20 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
  • Sandy soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Foliage: 
  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter
  • Mid winter
  • Late winter
  • Early spring
  • Mid spring
  • Late spring
  • Early summer
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Pyramidal
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
Wildlife: 
  • Browsers
  • Game birds
  • Nesting birds
  • Small mammals
More Information: 

A mature specimen of white fir.White fir (Abies concolor)photo: John Hagstrom

Tree & Plant Care

Do not plant in heavy clay soil.
Fir trees need very little pruning, but if pruning is needed do it in spring.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious problems.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of heat as well as cold temperatures.

Native geographic location and habitat

Found in mountainous areas in the southwestern United States.

Bark color and texture

Bark is gray.
On young trees the bark is relatively smooth; older trees are irregularly furrowed into broad flat ridges.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color

Evergreen needles are flat and attached singly to the stems.  They are 2 inches long and curve outward and upward on branches.
Color is blue-green.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers are inconspicuous.
Male pollen cones are red to red-purple; female flower cones are rose red and found in the upper portion of the tree.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Cones are erect and cylindrical; 4 to 5 inches long.
Color is pale green turning purplish as they mature.

Cultivars and their differences

Blue Cloak white fir: (Abies concolor 'Blue Cloak'):  This cultivar has powder-blue needles that hang down.

Candicans white fir (Abies concolor 'Candicans'): A cultivar with intensely silver-blue needles.

Glenmore white fir: (Abies concolor 'Glenmore'): A more compact tree (30 feet high) with longer, blue-gray needles.

Wintergold white fir: (Abies concolor 'Wintergold'):  Needles are yellow in winter and spring, turning dark green in summer.