The Gymnosperm Database


Line drawing; for full size image go to the Flora of China (Wu and Raven 1999).


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Conservation status

Abies recurvata

Masters 1906

Common names

紫果冷杉 (ziguo lengshan); Min fir.

Taxonomic notes

Two varieties; the type and Abies recurvata var. ernestii (Rehder) C.T. Kuan (syn: A. ernestii Rehder; A. beissneriana Rehder et Wilson; A. chensiensis var. ernestii (Rehder) Liu) (Farjon 1990).


For the type variety: Trees up to 60 m tall and 250 cm dbh, usually with a single straight trunk and a pyramidal crown (growing flat-topped with age) of horizontally spreading branches. Bark first smooth, gray, then developing papery flakes, later becoming dark gray or red-brown, rough, fissured, flaky. Branchlets yellow or yellowish gray, turning grayer in later years, firm, shiny, ridged between the leaves; leaf scars circular, light gray. Leaves radially spreading, appearing 2-ranked, strongly ascending or recurved on upper side of branchlets (esp. on sun foliage), bright green on upper and slightly glaucous on lower surface, stiff, sharp-pointed, (10-)12-16(-30) × 1.9-3.5 mm, stomata in 2 gray-green bands on lower surface, usually present in 2-8 lines near distal end of upper surface; resin canals 2, marginal. Pollen cones lateral, pendant, 10-15 mm long, yellow with reddish microsporophylls. Seed cones lateral, erect, often clustered, purple, maturing brown-purple, ovoid or cylindric-ovoid, 4-8 × 2.5-4 cm. Seed scales at middle of cones reniform, broadly rhombic-elliptic, 12-14 × 12-25 mm, thin, broadly rounded, and slightly incurved toward apex. Bracts oblong-spatulate, constricted at middle, 1/2-3/4 as long as seed scales, distal margin denticulate, apex broadly rounded, with a short, acute cusp. Seeds cuneate, ca. 8 mm; wing dark brown or black, 3-5 mm, cuneate-oblong (Farjon 1990, Wu and Raven 1999).

Var. ernestii differs in having foliage that is longer (25-35 mm) and typically not recurved, with leaves having a notched rather than acute apex (Farjon 1990, Wu and Raven 1999).

The prominently recurved leaves, although striking when present, are not a diagnostic character for this species.

Distribution and Ecology

China and Tibet: S of Songpan along the Min River in Sichuan (typical variety); the var. ernestii found through SW Gansu, W Sichuan, SE Xizang (Tibet) and possibly NW Yunnan at 2300-3600+m elevation. Climate is cold, with 700-1000 mm annual precipitation. Soils are grey-brown mountain podzols. Vegetation is mixed conifer with A. squamata, Picea likiangensis var. rubescens, P. asperata, Larix potaninii, Picea purpurea, Abies fargesii var. faxoniana and other species. A. fabri is commonly found with var. ernestii. At lower elevations, Tsuga chinensis, Picea brachytyla var. complanata and Pinus armandii are codominants (Farjon 1990). Hardy to Zone 6 (cold hardiness limit between -23.2°C and -17.8°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Big tree






In the first published description, Masters (1906) quotes from the notes of E.H. Wilson, who discovered this species: "This is a very remarkable species, unlike any other in its strongly decurved but assurgent leaves. Mr. Wilson speaks of it as a very local species, forming entire forests in the Min Valley one day's journey south of Sung-pan [松潘]. The tree reaches a height of 50-80 ft. and has reddish-brown bark. 'The leaves are deep green or very glaucous, varying very much in this respect. The specimens were gathered in September 1903, but the cones had already fallen to pieces and I was only able to gather half- cones. The cones are small, erect, brown, borne in clusters at the ends of the branches and near the tops of the trees. The timber is hard, resinous, and highly valued for building purposes. I failed to obtain any seeds, so that it is not in cultivation.'- Wilson in litt."


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.

Masters, M.T. 1906. On the conifers of China. Journal of the Linnaean Society, Botany 37:423. Available online at

See also

The species account at Threatened Conifers of the World.

Last Modified 2017-12-29