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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Distinguishing between subalpine fir, Abies lasiocarpa and douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii

I've already described pine trees and spruce trees. that grow around Prince George, this post is about the fir trees.

Abies lasiocarpa  subalpine fir

Abies lasiocarpa or subalipine fir is the species that grows around Prince George in BC’s interior. At first glance fir trees can be mistaken for spruce trees but even though their needles are similar in length and colour (blue green) the needles of fir trees are much softer. Rubbing ones hand down a twig of a fir tree is a much nicer experience than doing the same with a twig of a prickly spruce tree.

Subalpine fir needles have blunt ends that all tend to turn upwards. They have a white band on top and two white bands underneath.

The cones of a subalpine fir are purple. They grow upright near the top, of the tree. Unlike the cones of other conifers, fir cones disintegrate on the tree. I suppose that explains why I’ve never seen purple cones lying on the ground.

Douglas-fir Pseudotsuga menziesii

douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii

There are two types of Pseudotsuga menziesii, the variety menziesii or coastal fir, and the variety, glauca or interior fir.

It is not really a fir tree at all, that’s why its common name, Douglas-fir, is hyphenated. The common name is credited to the Scottish botanist who introduced many of British Columbia’s native conifers to Europe. Its botanical name, menziesii, was the name of the Scottish doctor/naturalist who first documented its existence on Vancouver island.

Needles of Douglas fir trees are flat with pointed tips. Their upper surface has a groove down the center and is bright, yellowish green in colour. The needles grow all around the twig.

Douglas-fir tree cones are initially green and as they mature they turn grey. Three pronged bracts are easily seen between each scale.


  1. I'm looking for low maintenance decorative plants to fill my empty garden. How would these fare?

  2. It's hard to distinguish subalpine fir, Abies lasiocarpa and douglas-fir, and Pseudotsuga menziesii. Now I know the difference of the four. Thanks for this helpful information.

    long island tree care


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