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Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica - corkbark fir

Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica, latva ©jsaarinen

Corkbark fir is an extremely southern variant of the subalpine fir (A. lasiocarpa), in fact it was earlier held to be a separate species. It is most easily distinguished by pale grey, almost cream-coloured, soft, corky bark. The needles are dense and a beautiful blue-grey, like those of the southern mountain forms of the subalpine fir.

Corkbark fir grows naturally in Arizona’s San Francisco Mountains, far to the south, but at such high elevations that it is hardy in Finnish winters, at least at Mustila. So far it has hardly been tried elsewhere in Finland. The species was first planted at Mustila in 1907 as one of the basic elements of the Rhododendron Valley. The trees, with their dense, silvery needles, gave the area a gleaming soft aspect until their lower branches slowly deteriorated due to aphids; rot, storm and snow-damage added to the problems. Although corkbark fir isn’t a long-lived species at Mustila, it has its own particular decorative value and should be retained as one of the Arboretum’s features through constant renewal.


Abies procera - noble fir

Abies procera, siemenet @tanska ©jr

Noble fir is native to a limited area on the Pacific Coast region of North America, growing in the Cascades from the northern border of the state of Washington south to the border between Oregon and California. This is a heavy rainfall area with thick snow cover in winter. Noble fir grows in mixed forest with other conifers. In contrast to most firs, it can live for as long as 300 years.

Noble fir is one of the most beautiful species of the genus, the name perfectly describing its appearance. Huge numbers are grown in Denmark for use in the florist trade, and in Britain there are small plantations producing timber.

The grey- or blue-green needles are curved, which helps in identifying the species. On different parts of the shoot the needles can spread comb-like or be shoot-covering, and they dry without falling. The bracts of the large cones are prominent and reflexed.

Few attempts have been made to grow Noble fir in Finland. Given seeds of suitable provenance it could perhaps be successfully grown in southern Finland, almost certainly along the coast, at least. Noble fir doesn’t develop a deep main root; instead the root plate is widespread and shallow, which can lead to problems for young trees in dry periods. Native to snowy mountain areas, the fir is also tender to cold spring winds and spring sunshine when young.


Abies homolepis - Nikko fir

The German Dendrological Society (Deutsche Dendrologische Gesellschaft) presented Arboretum Mustila with a batch of 3-year-old Nikko fir seedlings when they visited Mustila in 1925. A. F. Tigerstedt was somewhat sceptical regarding their success, but they are still growing today, along the road between Onnela and Hannula – quite successfully, though not particularly large.

Though rare, Nikko fir has also been grown in other arboreta and research collections in Finland. In recent years it has been imported from Central Europe, mainly for planting in private gardens, but so far no overall picture has formed about how successful, or how popular, it is in comparison with other more widely grown firs.

Nikko fir is native to all the main islands of Japan excepting Hokkaido, the northernmost. It thrives in the mountains at elevations 1000-1800m, higher than its near relation, the Momi fir (A. firma), but lower than the Veitch and Maries firs (A. veitchii and A. mariesii). The bark turns rough with increasing age, the crown coarser, like the Momi and Manchurian (A. holophylla) firs, and the branches are “Japanese-style” angled upwards.


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