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Abies nordmanniana in habitat, Mount Fisht, Caucasus Mountains, approximately N 43.94°, E 39.90°, 2000 m elevation [Эдуард Герлах, Eduard Gerlakh, 2017.07.28].


Shoot, foliage, and cone scale from tree of subsp. equi-trojani in Seattle arboretum; cone scale is 3 cm across [C.J. Earle 2010].


Branch tip/foliage detail from the same tree [C.J. Earle 2010].


Branch from the same tree [C.J. Earle 2010].


Trees of type variety in the Teberda Nature Reserve, Caucasus; Picea orientalis on hillslope in distance [Vladimir Dinets].


Abies nordmanniana in habitat, Mount Fisht, Caucasus Mountains, approximately N 43.94°, E 39.90°, 2000 m elevation [Эдуард Герлах, Eduard Gerlakh, 2017.07.28].


Selected firs of the Mediterreanean region.
A. cilicica = Dark green.
A. pinsapo var. marocana = Dark red.
A. nordmanniana = Magenta (Vidakovic 1991).


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Type subspecies:

Conservation status

Subspecies equi-trojani:

Conservation status

Abies nordmanniana

(Steven) Spach 1841

Common names

Caucasian fir; Pikhta kavkazkaya (Farjon 1990).

Taxonomic notes


One subspecies, equi-trojani (Aschers. et Sint. ex Boiss.) Coode et Cullen. Synonyms for subspecies equi-trojani (Silba 1986, Farjon 1990, Vidakovic 1991):

Vidakovic observes that: "[a]ccording to Flous (1936), A. bornmüelleriana is a hybrid between Greek and Caucasian fir, while Mattfeld (1930) believes it is a transitional type between the silver fir and Greek fir" (Vidakovic 1991). Vidakovic suggests that "throughout the entire Caucasus and north Turkey only one species occurs--A. nordmanniana" (Vidakovic 1991).

Farjon provides some further insights to the taxonomic disputes about this group of firs, noting that subspecies, equi-trojani "has been treated as a species by Mattfeld (1925). Earlier proposals to relate it to A. cephalonica or even A. alba have been abandoned by Davis et al. (1965) and Nitzelius (1969), but were again made by Liu (1971)" (Farjon 1990). He also concludes that "[t]he geographically separated populations in W and N Turkey, described under the above mentioned names and at various taxonomic levels, are found to be entirely clinal (Nitzelius, 1969)" (Farjon 1990).


Evergreen tree to 61 m tall, densely branched from ground up, branches regularly arranged. Bark grey-brown, smooth with resin blisters until very old. Needles dense, directed forward, 20-30 mm long, 2-2.5 mm wide, apex rounded and notched, lustrous dark green above, 2 white stomatal bands below, buds not resinous. Cones red-brown, 15 cm long and 5 cm wide, cylindrical (Oregon State University 2003, University of Connecticut 2001).

Subsp. equi-trojani is described as "[a] narrowly conical tree 20-30 m tall, 1.8-4 m girth, with a somewhat rounded crown. Bark thick, divided into scaly plates, yellowish grey-brown. Branchlets shiny yellowish brown to orange-brown, non-pubescent. Buds ovoid, chestnut brown, resinous, scales free at the apex, apex obtuse, 1-1.2 mm diameter. Needles densely set, irregularly disposed, mostly lying forward and crowded on upper side of branchlet, curving upwards on the lower side of the branchlets, grooved above near the base, 15-30 mm long by 1.5-2 mm wide, 2 white stomatal bands below with 6-8 lines, apex pointed or obtuse. Female cones cylindric-ovoid, reddish-brown to dark brown, apex ovoid, to 10 cm long by 4-4.5 cm wide; bracts long exerted and reflexed, sharp pointed, lobed. Seeds to 6 mm long, to 22 mm long with wing." It is found in Greece: Mt. Parnassus to W. Anatolia, Turkey, at 760-2000 m (Silba 1986).

Distribution and Ecology

The typical subspecies occurs in W Caucasia (Abkhazia and Georgia) and in the mountains of NE Turkey and N Turkey (Paphlagonia). Introgression with ssp. equi-trojani forms in the western part of its range. It grows in mountains around the E Black Sea at 900-2100 m, on silicic soils. The climate is continental and wet, with annual precipitation of 1000-3000 mm. It occurs in pure stands or mixed with Picea orientalis, Pinus sylvestris, Fagus orientalis, Acer trautvetteri, Carpinus caucasica, Ulmus elliptica, Acer pseudoplatanus, Tilia caucasica, Taxus baccata and Rhododendron ponticum (Farjon 1990).

Subsp. equi-trojani grows in pure stands as isolated relict populations on N slopes of high mountains in W Turkey and on Ulu-Dagh in Bithynia. It prefers calcareous soils (Farjon 1990).

Hardy to Zone 4 (cold hardiness limit between -34.3°C and -28.9°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001, subspecies not specified).

Big tree

I have found very few data from within the species' native range. The largest seems to be a tree 104 cm dbh and 50.20 m tall located in the Borjomi Strict Nature Reserve, Georgia (Monumental Trees 2014; includes a good photograph). This tree was measured by Kouta Rasanen, who notes "I am very sure there are taller and much larger trees in the Russian Western Caucasus and maybe also in NE Turkey... The southern slopes of the Russian Caucasus and the coast ranges of NE Turkey are moist and oceanic, trees reaching certainly larger dimensions there" (Kouta Rasanen email 2017.08.11). The trees pictured at left, photographed by Eduard Gerlakh in the Caucasus, are examples of what Kouta is talking about. There is one record of a tree on the Mzymta River, Caucasus National Reserve, Russia, as being 78 m tall and 360 cm dbh (Vladimir Dinets e-mail 1998.01.02). If accurately measured, this would be the largest Abies known. However, it may be that the 360 cm figure represents girth rather than diameter, and the height is also uncertain, predating laser measurements. Finally, some large trees are reported from the mountains in a forest reserve, Örümcek Ormanı Göknarı located in Turkey at approximately 40.67° N, 39.04° W. Circumstances of the measurement of these trees are not reported (they may have been measured in 1995), nor are locations, so they must be treated as anecdotal; but they report heights of up to 58.5 m and diameters of up to 193 cm (, no date). Certainly the area seems to warrant a visit.

The following data describe the largest reported trees located outside of the native range.




On 2003.09.02, I received the following e-mail, which is here quoted largely unedited (although I did help the author a bit with his English):

"I am Irakli Lekvinadze from the Republic of Georgia (Caucasia). I have recently read your web site and decided to co-operate with you. I am your colleague and I provide my own family business. I am busy with growing Abies Nordmanniana. Every year in September and October with the employeed local peasants I gather cones in the high mountain region "Racha" (where these trees grow wild), mill the cones and grow the trees. I sell them at Christmas. Despite the fact that peasants do not ask for much as their salary and the prices of the trees and seeds are low, my business is not large. This has its double reason: For the one hand Georgia is in the group of developing countries and the huge part of the population is still in the extreme poverty, so only some afford to buy and decorate trees at Christmas Eve, and for the other, there are some people who unconsciously cut trees breaking law and destroying the nature. These very people do not leave me the chance to increase by business. ... E-mail:"



Nominally discovered by Alexander von Nordmann, Finnish botanist (1803-1866), who introduced it to western Europe in 1838 (Oregon State University 2003).

Citations [No date.] Gümüşhane., accessed 2017.08.13.

Cadwallader, Brad. 2010.09.13 email. New Zealand Notable Trees Trust, data for tree TNR/0696., accessed 2010.11.29.

Flous, F. 1936: Classification et evolution d'un groupe d'Abietinées. Travaux Labor. Ford. Toulouse, Tome I, Vol. II, Article XVIII.

Mattfeld, J. 1930: Über hybridogene Sippen der Tannen. Bibliotheca Botanica 100:1-84, Stuttgart.

Monumental Trees. 2014. Nordmann fir in the Borjomi Strict Nature Reserve in Likani. Available:, accessed 2017.08.10.

Monumental Trees. 2016a. Nordmann fir 'Nazareno' in the Vallombrosa botanical garden in Vallombrosa. Available:, accessed 2017.08.10.

Monumental Trees. 2016b. Nordmann fir on the grounds of Cragside House. Available:, accessed 2017.08.10.

Oregon State University. 2003. Landscape Plants, Vol. 2., accessed 2003.09.02.

University of Connecticut. 2001. University of Connecticut Plant Database., accessed 2003.09.02.

See also

Arbez, M. 1969. Réparation, écologie et variabilité des sapins de Turquie du nord: Abies Nordmanniana Spach, Abies Bornmuelleriana Mattfeld, Abies equi-trojani Ascherson et Sintenis. Ann. Sci. forest. 16 (2):257-284.

Arbez. M. 1967. Étude des liaisons entre précocité du débourrement, diametre, hauteur et apparition du burgeon terminal, chez de jeunes plants de sapin en pepénière. Bull. Soc. Bot. France 114:15-22.

Arbez, M. 1967. Abies Nordmanniana Spach, Abies Bornmuelleriana Mattfeld. Ann. Sci. forest. 24:121-156.

Farjon (1990).

Last Modified 2017-08-13