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


[Pine Family]

White Fir

Abies concolor Lind. & Gord.

White Fir Cone. Slightly Less Than Natural Size
White Fir Cone
Slightly Less Than Natural Size

The common name of the White Fir is derived from the ashen hue that weathers upon the rather dark and heavily fissured bark of the old trees. These old trees have a rugged and defiant air which contrasts strongly with the airy grace of their youth.

The needles are from one to three inches long, a deep yellow-green in color. They are decidedly flat when drawn between the fingers, usually with a slight midrib below flanked by two whitened grooves, and a faint but perceptible channel above. Although they grow from below as well as from both sides of the branch, they appear, by twisting the short leaf-stem, to grow from opposite sides; on the lower branches the needle is straighter and longer, as well as less pointed, Man on those above, giving the effect of a very flat spray, while on the higher branches the needles curve upward much more definitely.

The cones are two and a half to five inches in length, oblong, with a somewhat flattened top, quite compact in appearance, with narrow, oblong bracts. They are brown, often with a yellowish-green tinge even when ripe.

The White Fir reaches a goodly size; it may be from seventy-five to one hundred and seventy-five feet in height, or even more. In diameter the trunk is often five or six feet, and sometimes seven or eight feet. The lower quarter or third of the bole in mature trees is usually clear of branches. Their silhouette is more irregular than that of the Red Fir.

As a rule the Red Fir occurs in almost pure stands, forming a rather dense forest broken by swales or hillside meadows or with some low ground cover under the trees, while the White Fir is scattered through a more open type of forest with Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Pine, and Incense Cedar. It is found throughout the Transition Zone and runs well into the Canadian Zone.

On the floor of the Yosemite Valley the White Fir is of frequent occurrence, and there it is often confused with the Douglas Fir. (For a comparison with this tree see the description of the latter.) There are several fine White Firs near Camp Curry, and also around the parking area at Happy Isles.

In the glades of the Tenaya and Merced canyons are some grand old White Firs, along with Incense Cedars. On the northeast shores of Merced Lake several White Firs of unusual size rise from among the aspens. The White Fir likes good soil; given that, and a certain amount of protection from undue exposure, it will venture above its “proper” limits.

Even in such a Red Fir forest as that at Badger Pass, an occasional White Fir may be found, the exception certainly and not the rule.



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