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Abies cephalonica Loud.

Greek Fir

Modern name

Abies cephalonica Loudon

A tree up to 120 ft high; young shoots smooth, shining brown; buds reddish, resinous. Leaves standing out nearly at right angles to, and all round the stem, but more densely above than below; the lower ones are the longer and all have the green surface uppermost; they are stiff, sharply pointed; 58 to 118 in. long, 116 to 112 in. wide; rich glossy green above, and with two well-defined stomatic bands beneath. Cones 4 to 6 in. long, 114 to 134 in. wide, cylindric, velvety brown, with the bracts protruded beyond the scale and bent downward. Bot. Mag., t. 8691.

Native of the mountains of Greece and of bordering parts of S. Yugoslavia and S. Albania; introduced by General Sir Charles Napier in 1824. For an interesting account of the introduction see Loudon’s Arb. et Frut. Brit., 1838, pp. 2325-9. The Greek fir thrives remarkably well in the British Isles, even in the east and south-east, although the biggest girths are produced in the west. Some care is needed in siting it, however, as it flushes early and may be cut by late frosts. It is one of the most distinctive of the silver firs in its sharp-tipped leaves standing out all round the shoot. These characters, with its glabrous shoots and resinous buds, render it easily recognisable, and distinguish it from all other firs except A. pinsapo, to which it is allied. In that species, however, the radial arrangement of the leaves is much more marked than in the Greek fir; the leaves are also shorter and the bracts of the cone are completely enclosed.

Two trees at Barton, Suffolk, 120 and 110 ft in height when measured by the late Maynard Greville in 1952, are probably from the seed sent by General Napier and planted there by his brother-in-law Sir Henry Bunbury, Bt. Other old trees of known planting date are: Stanage Castle, Radnor, pl. 1841, 80 × 1212 ft (1959), and Inveraray, Argyll, pl. 1849, 78 × 1312 ft (1955).

Among the tallest recorded are: Cortachy Castle, Angus, 118 × 1414 ft and 110 × 17 ft (1962); Bodnant, Denbigh, pl. 1876, 117 × 10 ft (1957); Fulmodestone, Norfolk, 116 × 1012 ft (1959); Bicton, Devon, 113 × 12 ft (1959); Brinkburn Priory, Northumb., 112 × 1314 ft (1958). There are many others of around 110 ft in height, well distributed over the country. The rapid growth of the Greek fir in middle years is shown by a tree at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 25 × 112 ft (1931) and 78 × 712 ft (1964).

var. apollinis (Link) Beissn. A. apollinis Link. – In this variety, described from Mt Parnassus, the leaves are more crowded on the upper side of the shoot, and more inclined to point forward; they are also thicker and more abruptly pointed, sometimes rounded, at the apex. But the Greek fir is variable in the wild state and intermediate forms are said to exist. Trees referable to this variety grow at Tilgate, Sussex; Warnham Court, Sussex; Hergest Croft, Heref.; and Haffield House, Heref.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

It should have been added that the plants on which Loudon founded the species were raised from seeds collected on the island of Keffalinia (Cephalonia), the largest of the Ionian islands, where it still grows, though its main distribution is on the mainland.

specimens : The Frythe, Welwyn, Herts., 105 × 1014 ft (1978); Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 25 × 112 ft in 1931, now 90 × 812 ft (1979); Blount’s Court, Oxon., 87 × 1034 ft in 1907, now 105 × 1314 ft (1978); Merton Court, Norfolk, pl. 1852, 52 × 912 ft in 1909, now 80 × 1334 ft (1981); Highclere, Hants, 115 × 1412 ft (1978); Melbury, Dorset, 118 × 1514 ft (1980); Oakley Park, Shrops., 108 × 1212 ft (1978); Ridgebourne House, Heref., 92 × 1612 ft (1985); Bodnant, Gwyn., pl. 1876, 136 × 1112 ft and 124 × 1212 ft (1981); Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 56 × 834 ft in 1903, now 87 × 16 ft (1980). The trees measured at Cortachy Castle, Angus, in 1962 were later blown down.

var. apollinis – For nomenclatural reasons this name must give way to var. graeca (Fraas) Liu, A. pectinata var. graeca Fraas being the first name given to the Apollo fir at the varietal level.

It is controversial whether this variety extends into Asiatic Turkey. A silver fir growing on Mount Ida in north-west Anatolia, overlooking the plain of Troy, has been given specific status as A. equi-trojani (Aschers. & Boiss.) Mattfeld. This is included by Liu in A. cephalonica var. graeca (apollinis) without distinction, but in Flora of Turkey the Mount Ida fir is placed under A. nordmanniana as subsp. equi-trojani (Aschers. & Boiss.) Coode & Cullen.

Among the few specimens of var. graeca (apollinis) are: Tilgate Park, Sussex, pl. 1876, 92 × 11 ft (1982); Hergest Croft, Heref., pl. 1900, 95 × 1214 ft (1978); Cairnsmore, Kirkc., 77 × 1012 ft (1979).

† cv. ‘Nana’. – A shrubby and flat-topped, slow-growing variant of A. cephalonica, with short leaves. Also known as ‘Meyer’s Dwarf.



Other species in the genus