The Gymnosperm Database


Silver fir forest in the Susa Valley, Italy [Renzo Motta].


Bark and crown of a tree in Selva de Irati, Pyrenees, Spain [Jose Angel Campos Sandoval].


Illustration from Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé, Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz, 1885, Gera, Germany (Stüber 1999).


Range of Abies alba (Atlas Florae Europaeae 1998).


Foliage of a tree in habitat [Jose Angel Campos Sandoval].


Underside of foliage [Jose Angel Campos Sandoval].

Many good photographs can be seen at


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Conservation status

Abies alba

Miller 1759

Common names

European or common silver fir (Silba 1986), abeto (Spanish).

Taxonomic notes

Syn. A. pardei Gaussen (Silba 1986).


Trees up to 55 m tall and 260 cm DBH, with a long clear bole and a pyramidal crown that becomes flat-topped with age. Bark smooth, gray, scaly, with resin blisters. Twigs grooved, pale brown or dull gray with a blackish pubescence. Shade foliage 2-ranked, spreading horizontally; foliage in sun more or less erect. Needle base twisted, apex notched or rounded; 15-30 × 1.5-2 mm; upper surface dark shiny green and grooved, usually lacking stomata; lower surface glaucous to whitish-green, keeled, with stomata in 5-8 ranks. Buds pale brown to reddish-brown, ovoid with an obtuse apex, sometimes resinous, diameter 8-11 mm, slightly pubescent. Pollen cones blue/violet/red, 1-3 cm long. Seed cones cylindrical, attenuate at the ends, 10-16 × 3-5 cm, green when young, turning red-brown; cone scales spathulate, finely pubescent with exserted, reflexed bracts extending about 2/3 the length of the scale. Seeds obovoid, reddish, winged, up to 2.5 cm long (Silba 1986).

Distribution and Ecology

France; Italy; Switzerland; Germany; Austria; Bulgaria; Ukraine: Karpaty Mts.; Byelorussia; at 300-1950 m elevation (Silba 1986, Vladimir Dinets e-mail 1998.01.02); Croatia. Hardy to Zone 4 (cold hardiness limit between -34.3°C and -28.9°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Distribution of Abies in the Mediterranean region. Data from Conifers of the World BRAHMS database, downloaded 2017.11.05. Taxa are color coded; see pull-out menu at left of map for details. Click on each occurrence for further information.

Big tree

Currently the largest known living single-stem tree is the "Great Fir of the Waldhaus" in Germany, with an estimated wood volume of 50 m3, 219 cm DBH, and height estimated at 53.3-54.3 m, based on 2013 measurements (Monumental Trees 2013). A somewhat larger multiple-tree fusion stem is known from Scotland, and there is a larger historic (but well documented) record from Italy. The tallest living tree that has been measured by laser or tape drop is height 56.1 m, DBH 129.5 cm, in Dobroč National Nature Reserve, Slovakia (Räsänen 2015). This also the tallest known tree in Slovakia.

Here are some other reported large trees:


A tree-ring chronology covering 411 years, presumably based on living tree material, was collected in 1952 in Bayerischer Wald, Germany (48.75°N, 13.00°E) by B. Becker (Data accessed at the NOAA Paleoclimatology Program Tree-Ring Data Search Page, 1999.02.24. URL:


Rolland (1993) did an exploratory study; the Bibliography of Dendrochronology provides some 290 additional citations (as of 2006), dating back to 1842, which is interesting (because dendrochronology was officially invented in about 1905)—unfortunately, there are none in English until 1956.


Foliar loppings of European silver fir in Czechoslovakia have yielded 1,380 tonnes/year of essential oils (Cermak and Penka 1979).


Räsänen (2015) describes the Dobroč National Nature Reserve in central Slovakia, saying "Slovakia is known for its numerous prime old-growth forest remnants. ... The preservation of Slovakian old-growth remnants results from their difficult accessibility, the late settlement of the mountainous landscape and the late industrialization of the country. The beginning of the industrial-scale use of the forest and the building of the road net coincided with the creation of the first reserves, i.e. in the late 1800s when there were still thousands of square kilometres of old-growth in Slovakia. ... Recently I made a trip to explore a few Slovakian old-growth reserves. One of them was Dobročský prales = Dobroč Primeval Forest or Dobroč National Nature Reserve in central Slovakia. The reserve is located on a north-facing slope at elevations 720–1000 m. Annual precipitation is 890–960 mm and average annual temperature 4.5–5°C. The reserve was established as early as 1912. The area was originally 50 ha (124 ac) and was later enlarged to 102 ha (252 ac). The original reserve is dominated by European beech [Fagus sylvatica] and European silver fir (Abies alba), and the newer part by Norway spruce [Picea abies]." The photos show a spectacular landscape.


Genetic, pollen and macrofossil evidence shows that Abies alba spent the last glacial maximum in at least three central European refugia: one in the northern Apennines, one in the southern Balkans, and one in the northern or western Balkans. The genetic data also indicate that a similar pattern likely occurred earlier in the Quaternary, with multiple episodes of genetic isolation and introgression (Lipelt et al. 2009).


Atlas Florae Europaeae. 1998. Computer program available for download at URL=, accessed 2009.04.17.

Cermak, J. and M. Penka. 1979. An attempt to estimate potential production of volatile terpenes from the logging by-products of silver fir (Abies alba Mill.). Planta Medica 36:3, 252.

Liepelt, Sascha, Ronald Bialozyt, and Birgit Ziegenhagen. 2002. Wind-dispersed pollen mediates postglacial gene flow among refugia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99(22):14590-14594.

Liepelt, S., R. Cheddadi, J. L. de Beaulieu, B. Fady, D. Gömöry, E. Hussendörfer, M. Konnert, T. Litt, R. Longauer, R. Terhürne-Berson, and B. Ziegenhagen. 2009. Postglacial range expansion and its genetic imprints in Abies alba (Mill.) — a synthesis from palaeobotanic and genetic data. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 153(1):139-149.

Miller, P. 1759. The Gardeners Dictionary, 7th edition. V.2, p.110.

Monumental Trees. 2013. European silver fir 'Große Waldhaustanne' in the street Hans-Watzlik-Hain., accessed 2017.09.04.

Räsänen, Kouta. 2015.10.08. Dobroč Primeval Forest – new record for European silver fir., accessed 2015.10.17.

Rolland, C. 1993. Tree-ring and climate relationships for Abies alba in the internal Alps. Tree-Ring Bulletin 53:1-11. Available online at, accessed 2006.06.05.

See also

Photographs and species account at, accessed 2009.05.02.

Farjon, Aljos. 1990. Pinaceae: drawings and descriptions of the genera Abies, Cedrus, Pseudolarix, Keteleeria, Nothotsuga, Tsuga, Cathaya, Pseudotsuga, Larix and Picea. Königstein: Koeltz Scientific Books.
- Provides a detailed account, with illustrations.

Zeneli, G., M. Dida, F. Ducci, and D. Habili. 2004. Silver fir (Abies alba) resources in Albania and their conservation, in Forest Genetic Resources No. 31., accessed 2011.02.25.

Last Modified 2017-12-29