Wasatch Wilderness: White Fir (Abies concolor)

WASATCH MOUNTAINS, Utah – White fir, also known as silver fir or balsam fir, is an evergreen tree native to Utah. The Rocky Mountain white Fir, a variation of Abies concolor, grows in the driest and warmest climate of all white fir species. The California white fir, another species variation, is cultivated for picturesque Christmas trees.

White Fir Needles and Cone – photo: Ashley Brown

The tree derives its scientific name from the uniform color of both the needle and bark surface. The flat, flexible light blue-green needles grow 1 ½ to 4 inches long. The upper bark is smooth and light gray; near the base, the bark becomes furrowed and thick with corky ridges. The cones are 3 to 5 inches long, and the winged seeds are an essential food source for songbirds, chipmunks, squirrels, and other small mammals. In addition, porcupines eat the bark, while grouse and deer feed on the foliage.

Mature trees can be between 70 and 160 feet tall and thrive at elevations between 5500 and 11000 feet. White firs often grow in large communities, which are particularly charming blanketed in a layer of snow.

Furrowed and Scaly Bark Near the Base of a White Fir – photo: Ashley Brown

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