The Gymnosperm Database


Ornamental tree at Howick Hall Arboretum, UK; grown from seed collected by an IDS group in Milke Danda, Nepal, in 1991 [C.J. Earle, 2010.06.20].


Foliage on the above tree [C.J. Earle, 2010.06.20].


Foliage on the above tree [C.J. Earle, 2010.06.20].


Ripe cone on the above tree [C.J. Earle, 2010.06.20].


Dehiscent cone on the above tree [C.J. Earle, 2010.06.20].


Bark on the above tree, diameter about 18 cm [C.J. Earle, 2010.06.20].


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Conservation status

Abies densa

Griffith 1854

Common names

Gobria, gobra salla (in Nepal), dunshing (in Bhutan), Sikkim fir (in the West) (Farjon 2010)

Taxonomic notes

Sometimes called A. spectabilis var. densa Silba 1984 and also similar to A. delavayi, but Farjon (2010) regards it as consistently different in morphology, and it also has a distinct distribution. Rushforth (2009) described A. fordei from the Yarlung Zangbo watershed in Tibet; it is nearly identical except for having non-revolute needle margins, and is treated as synonymous by Farjon (2010) though it could warrant infraspecific description.


Trees to 60 m tall and 250 cm dbh, usually with a single straight trunk and a pyramidal or columnar crown that flattens with age. Bark scaly, gray, becoming fissured and coarsely platy with age. Branchlets of leading shoots thick, lateral shoots thinner, yellow- to red-brown, greying with age, ridged and grooved, smooth or with slight pubescence in grooves. Leaves of shade foliage ± pectinate, (1.5-)2-4(-5) cm × 1.5-2.5 mm, linear, flattened, margins slightly revolute, stomata in two bands on the underside. Pollen cones lateral on shoot, 2-4.5 cm long, yellow with purple-blue microsporophylls. Seed cones lateral, erect, sessile, cylindrical, 8-12 × 4-5.5 cm, purple-blue maturing very dark purple, brown when dehiscing. Seed scale 1.5-2 × 2-2.5 cm, smooth or slightly striated. Bracts 2-2.5 cm, slightly or not exserted. Seeds 8 × 4 mm with a 10 × 5 mm wing, brown (Farjon 2010).

Distribution and Ecology

Himalaya: E Nepal; Bhutan; India: Assam, Sikkim; Tibet. Generally A. spectabilis occurs to the west and A. delavayi to the east. A. densa occurs in cloud forest at 2,450 to 4,000 m elevation. Climate is monsoonal, with over 2,000 mm annual rainfall, featuring warm wet summers and cold snowy winters. Occurs from mixed hardwood-conifer forests up to the alpine timberline. At lower elevations, common associates include Acer caudatum, A. pectinatum, Prunus spp., Sorbus spp., and Rhododendron spp. Above about 3,000 m elevation, codominants include Picea spinulosa and Tsuga dumosa, while at timberline it may be found with Larix griffithiana, Juniperus squamata, and Betula utilis (Farjon 2010). Hardy to Zone 8 (cold hardiness limit between -12.1°C and -6.7°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Big tree

Although this is evidently one of the largest species of Abies, I have no data on particular specimens.




Within its range, it is an important timber species, used for building construction (Farjon 2010). It is a striking ornamental, but rarely seen.




Griffith, W. 1854. Notulae ad Plantas Asiaticas. Part 4. Posthumous papers arranged by John M'Clelland. Calcutta. (p. 19).

Rushforth, K.D. 2009. The Tibetan silver fir. International Dendrology Society Yearbook 2008:39-46.

See also

Gratzer, G., P.B. Rai, and G. Glatzel. 1997. Ecology of the Abies densa forests in IFMP Ura, Bhutan. IFMP Research Report., accessed 2010.12.11.

Biography of Griffith: Lang, W.H. 1913. William Griffith. Pp. 170-188 in F.W. Oliver (ed.), Makers of British Botany. Cambridge: The University Press. Pp. 178-191. Available at Google Books.

Last Modified 2017-12-29