White Fir (Abies concolor)
White Fir, also commonly called Concolor Fir, is native to the western United States and may reach sizes of 130-150 ft. in height with trunks 3 to 4 ft. in diameter. The oldest white Firs may occasionally reach 350 years of age. It produces a spire-like crown with a straight trunk. On older trees, the lower one-half to one-third of the crown is often free of branches.
Michael Dirr feels that White Fir could very well replace the ever popular spruce in the home landscape because of its soft foliage, especially those trees with bluish needles. White Fir is considered the best Fir for the Midwest and East. White Firs grow slowly, about 12 to 18 inches a year, producing a whorl of branches that contributes to their conical shape. They are fairly narrow, spreading from 1/4 to 1/3 of their height.
Fir leaves are flat needles that are silvery-gray in the spring. They show a silvery bluish-green on their tops and undersides over the summer. Their bluntly rounded tips yellow a bit in the winter. One to two inches long, the needles are clustered along the topsides of the twigs. They stay on the tree for 4 to 5 years before dropping.
Both sexes of the flowers of White Firs are cones and appear on the same tree in May. Male cones are small, about an inch long, borne in bunches that shed pollen in the spring. The female seed-bearing cones are rosy-red, 3 to 5 inches long, borne mostly near the top of the tree. They become olive green, then purple-brown as the growing season progresses from July to October. Unlike many other evergreen species, Fir cones are erect, standing upright on the branches, rather than hanging down. The cones fall apart easily in the late fall, releasing seeds relished by wildlife.
As a Christmas tree, white Fir has good foliage color, a pleasing natural shape and aroma, and good needle retention (about 2 weeks or more if provided with water).
White Fir Choices
There are many cultivars of White Fir. Some have different colored leaves. Some with blue leaves include Violacea with blue white needles, Blue Cloak, Blue Globe, and Blue Select. Some have yellow needles including Aurea and Winter Gold. Some cultivars are much more compact in size with some even being dwarf. Compacta and Conica are compact Firs and Nana is a dwarf mounded plant. There are even weeping cultivars including Gables Weeping.