Wasatch Wilderness: Subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa)

WASATCH MOUNTAINS, Utah – Subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), also known as the Rocky Mountain fir, is an evergreen tree native to Utah and the Rocky Mountains. The Subalpine fir is the smallest of the true fir species native to the United States. The tree’s conical shape and rich pine scent make it a favorite choice for holiday decorations.

Subalpine Fir Needles – photo: Ashley Brown

Subalpine fir creates thickets and ground cover, which small mammals use for warmth and shelter during the winter. Songbirds and grouse utilize foliage for warmth and shelter during the cold months.

The species can live for hundreds of years, and the oldest tree is believed to be about 500 years old. Trees can grow up to 150 feet tall and may be smaller in harsher environments. Young trees and branches have gray smooth bark, which becomes furrowed and scaly with age. The needles are short, flat, and curve upwards. Subalpine firs thrive in mid and upper-elevation slopes where there is not a defined tree line.

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