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Abies nordmanniana Spach

Caucasian Fir

Modern name

Abies nordmanniana (Steven) Spach

A tree described as reaching 200 ft in height in a wild state, with a trunk 4 to 5 ft in diameter; young shoots shining grey-brown, furnished with short stiff hairs; buds not resinous, ovoid. Leaves very densely arranged, mostly on the upper side of the shoot, the lower ones being the longer, and spreading horizontally; the upper ones shorter, and pointing forward; it is only on weak shoots that any indication of a two-ranked or V-shaped arrangement is seen. The leaves measure 34 to 112 in. in length, 116 to 112 in. wide, apex rounded and notched; very dark glossy green above, midrib sunken, two whitish stomatic bands beneath. Cones 5 or 6 in. long, 134 to 2 in. wide, cylindrical or tapered towards the top, reddish brown; scales 114 to 134 in. wide, 58 to 34 in. deep; bracts conspicuously protruded and bent downwards. Bot. Mag., t. 6992.

Native of the Caucasus and Asia Minor; discovered in 1836 and first distributed in Britain by Lawson of Edinburgh a few years later. It is undoubtedly one of the handsomest and, in most places, best-growing of the firs, although in some places very subject to the attacks of aphis. It thrives in very much the same conditions that suit A. grandis but tolerates more lime in the soil. In foliage it is not unlike the W. American A. amabilis, which has, however, more rounded and resinous buds, and cones with enclosed bracts. Botanically, it stands much closer to A. alba.

It is possible to mention only a few of the fine specimens in the British Isles: Oakley Park, Shrops., 132 × 9 ft (1960); Woodhouse, Devon, 126 × 812 ft (1957); Taymouth Castle, Perths., 120 × 13 ft, a superb tree with very luxuriant foliage (1961); Benmore, Argyll, 120 × 934 ft (1964); Vivod, Denbigh, 117 × 712 ft (1964); Moor Park, Shrops., 115 × 834 ft (1962); Durris House, Kinc., 114 × 12 ft (1955); Mells Park, Somerset, 113 × 912 ft, with a very fine bole (1962); Boconnoc, Cornwall, 111 × 1134 ft, a very fine tree (1957).

At Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, there are large numbers in splendid vigour and size, planted in 1867. Of these the largest is 134 × 1414 ft (1966).

cv. ‘Pendula’. – Branches pendulous; originated in Young’s nursery, Milford, Surrey. A tree at Headfort, Co. Meath, Eire, probably belongs here. It was planted in 1916 and measures 60 × 4 ft (1966).

At Belladrum, Inverness-shire, there is a remarkable tree 102 ft high, making a fine, narrow, solid column and with incurved, twisted needles. It agrees with the description of ‘Tortifolia’ but is unlikely to be of that clone.

A. bornmuelleriana Mattf. – A species allied to the preceding but with some of the characters of A. cephalonica, notably the resinous buds and glabrous shoots. It has been considered to be a hybrid between them, but if so, the crossing must have taken place in the distant past, since the two species are not in contact at the present time. It has a small range in N.W. Asia Minor, where it forms forests on the Bithynian Olympus. It is distinguished from A. nordmanniana by the characters mentioned, and from A. cephalonica by its emarginate leaves. There are examples of over 80 ft at Dropmore, Bucks., and Gordon Castle, Moray.

A. × insignis Carr. ex Bailly – This name covers the various hybrids that have arisen in cultivation between A. nordmanniana and A. pinsapo. The type form occurred spontaneously in a French nursery and was a seedling of A. pinsapo, but the same cross was made deliberately, also in France, using A. nordmanniana as the seed parent.

Abies nordmanniana

Abies nordmanniana

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Oakley Park, Shrops., 141 × 10 ft (1978); Mells Park, Som., 113 × 912 ft (1972); Endsleigh, Devon, 115 × 1512 ft (1977); Boconnoc, Cornwall, 130 × 1214 ft (1983); Cragside, Northumb., 152 × 1112 ft (1984); Lingholm, Cumb., 108 × 1312 ft (1983); Dunans, Argyll, 141 × 1134 ft (1985); Benmore, Argyll, in Avenue, 148 × 1012 ft, by Bridge, 150 × 11 ft and, by Entrance, 148 × 1112 ft (1983); Taymouth Castle, Perths., 135 × 1412 ft and 132 × 1334 ft (1983); Cortachy Castle, Angus, pl. 1872, 120 × 13 ft (1981); Durris House, Kincard., 130 × 13 ft (1980), and another tree 117 × 1112 ft (1980); Ardross Castle, Ross, 88 × 1314 ft (1980); Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 92 × 1512 ft and 102 × 1434 ft (1975); Coolattin, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 129 × 1412 ft (1975).

† cv. ‘Golden Spreader’. – Of spreading habit and slow growth, with bright yellow foliage. This occurred as a seedling in a Dutch nursery and was put into commerce in 1961. It was originally known as ‘Aurea Nana’ (Den Ouden & Boom, Man. Cult. Conif. (1965), p. 33).

A. bornmuelleriana – Contrary to what was stated on page 161, this fir has an extensive range in northern Anatolia, as far east as about 36° E., where it is separated by only a fairly short gap from the south-western stands of A. nordmanniana. Its leaves are arranged more or less as in that species, but they are more crowded and stiffer, with some stomata on the upper surface, and the winter-buds are resinous. In these characters it resembles A. cephalonica, and Liu subscribes to the view that it is the result of hybridisation between the two species. In Flora of Turkey it is placed under A. nordmanniana as subsp. bornmuelleriana (Mattf.) Coode & Cullen. It might be added that, since A. nordmanniana and A. cephalonica have both been grown in western Europe for well over a century, trees resembling A. bornmuelleriana might be hybrids of cultivated origin.

Immediately to the west of A. bornmuelleriana lies the Mount Ida fir, A. equi-trojani. This, mentioned above under A. cephalonica, is controversially placed under A. nordmanniana in Flora of Turkey as another subspecies, but is really nearer to A. cephalonica and indeed is included in A. cephalonica var. graeca (apollinis) by Liu.

All the species mentioned, and A. borisii-regis, belong to the same section of the genus as A. alba, and form a chain, with A. alba at one end and A. nordmanniana at the other.

Two examples of A. bornmuelleriana are: Cairnsmore, Kirkcud., 82 × 1114 ft (1984); and Altyre, Moray, 56 × 414 ft (1985).



Other species in the genus