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All of these Fir trees have the traditional holiday tree shape – pyramidal in youth, maturing to very tall and narrow. Click on photos to enlarge.
Photo credits to Jim Coughlin, Portland Nursery and Oregon State University
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5050 SE Stark, Portland, OR
9000 SE Division, Portland, OR
Genus: Abies – from the Latin word abire, meaning ‘to rise’ – refers to the great height that many firs attain.
Common Name: Fir
Origin: 50 or so species originating from Europe, northern Africa, Asia and America
Characteristics: Leaves/needles are usually flat and soft with the exception of Spanish Fir. Female cones stand upright along branches.
Habit is pyramidal and symmetrical in the species plants, but can vary to round, pendulous and contorted in cultivated varieties. Firs grow relatively slowly, and even slower in urban environments.
Culture: General requirements are moist, acidic, well-drained soil, high humidity and low temperatures.
Culture requirements vary with species - Abies lasiocarpa, our native Sub-alpine Fir, needs very fast draining soil in order to thrive, but Abies grandis, our native Grand Fir adapts easily to a variety of soil types.
Planting is best accomplished from mid-autumn to spring so that roots can become established during cooler times of the year.
Typically Firs prefer full sun, but light shade is acceptable. Tolerance to cold temperatures varies, but all of the Firs on our list are hardy in Portland.
Problems: Insects seem to avoid Firs for the most part, but fungal problems are fairly common, mostly in the form of root-rot. Roots need to be allowed air circulation, so adding compost when planting can help.
If the tree requires exceptional drainage, consider blending pumice with the compost, or choosing a tree that will be happy growing in a container.