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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Abies bracteata - Bristlecone Fir

Such a cool native conifer, growing so close to us in it's native Santa Lucia mountain range, and so rare in Santa Cruz landscapes. I have seen it growing nicely in SLO and the pictures below at Tilden Park. It gets its name from the very long awns on the ends of the cone scales. The tree is an evergreen conifer, forming a narrow spire, medium growing to 70' tall and 20' wide. Quite narrow and spire-like, full with short lateral branches that weep at the tip. Broad spreading at the base and retaining it's lateral branches at the ground. If you go to Tilden park, especially around the golf course area you will see hundreds planted and lots of an lots of seedlings.

Leaves (needles) are evergreen, needle like, 1.5 - 2.5 " long, stiff, flat, dark glossy green on the upper surface twisted at the base and a sharply pointed tip. Lower surface with 2 distinct lines of stomates. Leaves appear 2 ranked on lower branches or may be radiating around the stem on vigorous stems.

Cones are held upright on the tree near the tops of the trees, 2.5 - 3.5" long, almost egg shaped, with long scale tips. Cones purplish brown at maturity. As will all true fir trees you will not find full cones on the ground as they mature and fall apart on the tree. The scales below is all you will find, unless a squirrel or the wind brought one down.

Male cones small, yellow when mature.

Distinct long pointed buds, non resinous. Bark smooth when young, lacking hairs, mature bark lightly checked.

Misidentification: The leaves and terminal buds might look dougfir like, but these are way sharper and a bit longer. Obviously look at the ground, you will not find whole cones like a dougfir.

Location: Aptos
507 Loma Prieta Dr, I could not really determine the true address,  I think its across the street from this. While you are there, look at 507 for the Torreya californica (Torreya was removed 2013)

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