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Friday, December 30, 2011

Abies pinsapo 'Glauca' - Spanish Fir

The blue Spanish fir is a beautiful slow growing, broadly pyramidal tree with a very symmetrical habit 20-40' tall and 15' wide at the base. A bluish gray version of the species, with very tightly arranged lateral branches and very full all the way to the ground. This one gets pruned, I  have seen him up with a really tall ladder.

They look more like this but the top is usually rounded at maturity.

Foliage is very different than most firs in that they are really short and plump.  The leaves are linear, evergreen, short and stout, about 3/8 - 1/2" long, pointed or blunt tip and more or less rounded in cross section. Lasting 12 plus years before falling.  Blue color (a thick layer of wax), and unlike most true firs they spread out completely around the stems (most firs tend to arrange their leaves so they appear to be opposite.

Fir leaves differ from other fir-like trees, like spruces and doug firs by the way the leaves are attached to the stem. The base of the leaf is rounded and is attached much like suction cups. When the leaves fall off they leave a small rounded or oval circle. You can see that in this image as well.

The cones are very pretty, and like all firs they are mostly borne up at the top of the tree. Luckily they do produce some lower on the tree so you can see them.  Cones are 4-5" tall, about 1" wide. The bracts are shorter than the scales so you will not see them. Cones mature in one season and are purplish before maturing to a brown color.

The cones fall apart while attached to the tree and leave behind an upright stalk.

Male cones, small reddish. Notice the terminal bud in this picture, 3 clustered and covered with resin.

Branches light reddish brown, stout, and smooth where the leaves have fallen off they will have round scars. The old trunks are smooth as is common of all firs. It is not till they are really old do they become furrowed. Terminal buds are clustered in 3's at the tip, and covered with resin.

Misidentification: look for the very short blue leaves radiating out all around the stem and resinous buds. Foliage is very much different than most firs in that they are really short and plump.

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