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Abies bracteata (D. Don) Nutt.

Santa Lucia Fir

Modern name

Abies bracteata (D.Don) Poit.


Pinus bracteata D. Don; Abies venusta (Dougl.) K. Koch; Pinus venusta Dougl.

A tree 100 to 150 ft high, of pyramidal form, but abruptly narrowed near the top into a slender, steeple-like apex; young shoots pale green, perfectly glabrous; winter buds 12 to 34 in. long, slenderly conical, the scales being loose, pale brown, non-resinous. Leaves flat, stiff, and spine-tipped; 114 to 214 in. long, 110 in. wide; dark shining green, with two blue-white bands of stomata beneath; the leaves are aggregated into two sets, one each side of the shoot, leaving a broad V-shaped opening between. Cones 3 to 4 in. long, 2 to 212 in. wide, egg-shaped, purplish brown, each bract terminated by a slender, stiff, spine-tipped point, 1 to 2 in. long. Bot. Mag., t. 4740.

Native of, and confined to, the Santa Lucia Mountains, California; discovered in 1832; introduced by W. Lobb in 1853. It is in several respects the most remarkable of all firs: its pyramidal spire-topped shape and its buds are quite unlike those of any other species; its spine-tipped, never notched, leaves are comparable only with those of A. cephalonica; and, chief of all, the bayonet-like terminations of the bracts projecting all round the cone are only seen in this species. The tree generally is not a success, owing to its susceptibility to late spring frosts, and appears to be rather short-lived, judging from the high casualty rate found by A. F. Mitchell among the trees mentioned by Elwes and Henry (1906-8) and in the R.H.S. Conifer Conference returns (1931). Best placed in a moist and sheltered position, with good air drainage.

The following are some of the larger specimens, and others whose planting dates are known: Eastnor Castle, Heref., 117 × 1514 ft (1961); Bodnant, Denbigh, pl. 1891, 114 × 1012 ft (1966); University of Exeter, Devon, 105 × 11 and 85 × 1134 ft (1967); Mells Park, Somerset, 97 × 834 ft (1966); Althorp, Northants, 96 × 9 ft (1964); Nymans, Sussex, pl. 1908, 64 × 514 ft (1957); Stanage Park, Radnor, pl. 1909, 72 × 6 ft (1959); Hergest Croft, Heref., pl. 1922, 56 × 434 ft (1961).

Abies bracteata

Abies bracteata

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

The distinctiveness of this species is emphasised by its taxonomic position in the genus, as the sole member of the subgenus Pseudotorreya (Hickel) Franco. All other silver firs belong to the typical subgenus. Apart from its remarkable bract-scales, its leading characters are the slender buds and the long, spine-tipped leaves.

specimens : Leonardslee, Sussex, 18 ft high in 1931, 97 × 334 ft (1979); Colemans Hatch, Sussex, 88 × 812 ft (1984); Upper Hartfield, Sussex, 75 × 714 ft (1975); Tilgate, Crawley, Sussex, pl. 1911, 72 × 634 ft (1974); Mells Park, Som., 92 × 9 ft (1975); Eastnor Castle, Heref., 111 × 1034 ft (1981) (the tree measured in 1970 is dead); Hergest Croft, Heref., pl. 1922, 80 × 714 ft and 75 × 634 ft (1980); University of Exeter, Devon, 110 × 1134 ft and 85 × 12 ft (1978); Althorp, Northants, a forking tree, 115 × 1414 ft (1983); Bodnant, Gwyn., pl. 1909, 72 × 8 ft (1981) (the tree planted in 1891 was blown down in the winter of 1979-80).



Other species in the genus