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Abies grandis foliage
Intact and disintegrated Bulgarian Fir cones
Abies alba foliage from Dinaric calcareous fir forests on Mt.
Orjen


Firs (Abies) are a genus of between 48-55 species of evergreen conifers in the family Pinaceae. All are trees, reaching heights of 10-80 m (30-260 ft) tall and trunk diameters of 0.5-4 m (2-12 ft) when mature. Firs can be distinguished from other members of the pine family by their needle-like leaves, attached to the twig by a base that resembles a small suction cup; and by erect, cylindrical cones 5-25 cm (2-10 in) long that disintegrate at maturity to release the winged seeds. Identification of the species is based on the size and arrangement of the leaves, the size and shape of the cones, and whether the bract scales of the cones are long and exserted, or short and hidden inside the cone. They are most closely related to the cedars (Cedrus). Firs are found through much of North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, occurring in mountains over most of the range.

Firs are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Chionodes abella (recorded on White Fir), Autumnal Moth, Conifer Swift (a pest of Balsam Fir), The Engrailed, Grey Pug, Mottled Umber and Pine Beauty.

Douglas-firs are not true firs, being of the genus Pseudotsuga.

Classification



  • Section Grandis (western North America to Mexico and Guatemala, lowlands in north, moderate altitudes in south)






  • Section Amabilis (Pacific coast mountains, North America and Japan, in high rainfall mountains)




  • Section Oiamel (Central Mexico, at high altitude)








Uses

The wood of most firs is considered unsuitable for general timber use, and is often used as pulp or for the manufacture of plywood and rough timber. Because this species has no insect or decay resistance qualities after logging, it is generally recommended for construction purposes as indoor use only (ex. indoor drywall framing). This wood left outside can not be expected to last more than 12–18 months depending on the type of climate it is exposed to. It is commonly referred to as several different names which include North American timber, SPF (spruce, pine, fir) and whitewood. Nordmann Fir, Noble Fir, Fraser Fir and Balsam Fir are very popular Christmas trees, generally considered to be the best trees for this purpose, with aromatic foliage that does not shed many needles on drying out. Many are also very decorative garden trees, notably Korean Fir and Fraser Fir, which produce brightly coloured cones even when very young, still only 1-2 m (3-6 ft) tall. Other fir trees can grow anywhere between 30 and 236 feet tall.

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