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Trees of Yosemite (1932, 1948) by Mary Curry Tresidder


[Pine Family]

The Fir

Abies

Firs are tall and stately trees, their fan-like whorls of dense foliage tapering into a spire, where lightning and the mountain storms have not intervened. Our two species of this genus are the White Fir, Abies concolor, and the Red Fir, Abies magnifica.

The young trees of both species are graceful things, with their silvery bark, and their symmetrical branches tipped with tender green. As they grow older the bark becomes thicker, roughens, and takes on the coloring implied in each name.

The needles are not borne in a sheath, and are shorter than those of the pines. They are spirally arranged around the branch, but usually curve from it in such a way that they appear to grow from opposite sides or to curve out from the top. On the upper branches they are more pointed than on the lower, and usually are more strongly curved. At a little distance it is interesting to note the contrast of the distinct layers of foliage of the firs with the clustering needles of the pines.

The ovulate flowers grow erect on the topmost branches of the firs, and the staminate flowers hang from branches a little farther down in the tree. The cones are always erect, a distinguishing characteristic of the firs, and are always in the crown. (As the illustrations both for the White Fir and for the Red show a cone-bearing branch, the foliage in both instances is the curving needle of the crown.) The cones ripen in one season, maturing in late August or September. When they are ripe, the cone falls to pieces, and scales and seeds are scattered on the wind, the woody axis and base sometimes remaining for several years. Hence one rarely finds a fir cone on the ground except where the squirrels have been at work.

The range of the White Fir in the Yosemite region is from 3,000 to 8,000 feet approximately, and that of the Red Fir from 6,000 to 9,500 feet. In both cases they occur in the upper portion of their range only where the greater climatic severity of a higher zone is tempered by suitable conditions of sun and shade, of soil and drainage, with a rapid tapering off of the number of trees to be encountered as these conditions change.

Thus it is only in the thousand feet or so from 6,000 or 6,200 to 7,200 that there is likely to be much confusion of the two, and the more readily they may be compared side by side, as at that altitude, the easier it is to distinguish them. Once your eye really is impressed with the characteristic color of bark and foliage in each species there seems to be little difficulty— until you have been away from them for a time and try to explain how to tell them apart when you are confronted with only one or the other instead of both!


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