The Gymnosperm Database


Foliage and cone of var. gracilis (Harkevich and Kachura 1981).


Stand of var. mayriana at Kunashir, Kurile Islands [Vladimir Dinets].


Stand of var. sachalinensis on hill in background, on Shikotan in the Kurile Islands (Larix gmelinii var. japonica in foreground) [Vladimir Dinets] (Vladimir Dinets e-mail 2000.02.01).


Abies sachalinensis in Akan National Park, Hokkaido [Vladimir Dinets, 2006] (click HERE for more photos).


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Conservation status

Abies sachalinensis

(F. Schmidt) Masters 1879

Common names

Sakhalin fir, トドマツ (akatodo) [Japanese], Пихта сахалинская (pixta sakhalinskaya) [Russian].

Taxonomic notes

This is one of 8 species in Section Balsamea, which includes all of the Japanese and Russian Far East firs, as well as Abies balsamea and A. lasiocarpa in North America. Sakhalin fir is probably most closely related to A. nephrolepis, which occupies mainland habitats just west of the range of A. sachalinensis.

There are four described varieties, including the type, with synonymy as follows:

A. sachalinensis var. sachalinensis

A. sachalinensis var. gracilis (Kom.) Farjon 1990

A. sachalinensis var. mayriana Miyabe & Kudo 1919

A. sachalinensis var. nemorensis Mayr. 1890


Trees to 30 m tall and 100 cm DBH, typically with a single straight round bole. Crown pyramidal, often becoming flattened in old trees, comprised of long, slender horizontal or ascending branches. Bark first brownish gray, smooth, with resin blisters; with age becoming a mosaic of gray-brown irregular plates. Twigs slender, stiff, brown, faintly ridged and grooved, with minute red-brown pubescence; leaf scars small and circular. Buds ovoid, small, very resinous, the bud scales persisting several years. Leaves spirally arranged, upper leaves covering the shoot, 12-35 × 1.2-1.5 mm, twisted at base, linear, flattened, grooved and glossy dark green on upper surface, with a midrib and two stomatal bands below; apex emarginate or obtuse, with few or no stomata on the upper surface. Pollen cones lateral, densely clustered, 1 cm long, yellow with red microsporophylls. Seed cones lateral, often crowded, ellipsoid-cylindrical with acute to obtuse apex, 5-8 × 2-3 cm, dark brown when ripe, with 10 × 16 mm reniform seed scales, pubescent on exposed surface, and 10-13 mm long included or exserted and recurved bracts. Seeds 6 mm long, brown with black spots, with a broad 5 × 5 mm black wing (Farjon 2010).

The varieties may be distinguished as follows (Farjon 2010):

VarietyBarkLeaf resin ductsImmature seed conesRange
A. s. var. sachalinensis Gray or brownish gray Medial Dark purple when immature; bracts exserted Hokkaido, Kuril Is., Sakhalin
A. s. var. gracilis Gray Marginal Purple when immature; bracts exserted Kamchatka
A. s. var. mayriana Smooth pale gray Medial Light purple when immature; bracts exserted Hokkaido, Sakhalin
A. s. var. nemorensis Gray Medial Bracts included Hokkaido, Sakhalin

Distribution and Ecology

Russia: Sakhalin, the southern Kuril Islands, and one small stand on Kamchatka; Japan: Hokkaido. Occurs at elevations from sea level to 1,650 m; climate is cold maritime, and soils are well drained but perennially moist. On Sakhalin it primarily occurs at 800-1,100 m elevations in pure stands or a mixed forest with Picea jezoensis, Picea glehnii, and Larix gmelinii var. japonica or, near the treeline, Pinus pumila. At lower elevations it co-occurs with broadleaf trees such as Betula ermanii, Acer spp., Quercus mongolica var. grossesserata, Castanea crenulata, Kalopanax septemlobus, and Magnolia hypoleuca (Farjon 2010).

Distribution data from Conifers of the World BRAHMS database and, both downloaded 2017.11.04. Occurrences cited by Semerikova and Semerikov (2007) are also shown. Varieties of A. sachalinensis are color coded: orange for var. sachalinensis, blue for var. mayriana, yellow for var. gracilis, and red for specimens with no stated variety. Note that none of these collections report var. nemorensis. Click on each occurrence for further information.

Var. gracilis is only known from one small grove (0.2 km2) in Semyachik valley, Eastern Kamchatka (within Kronotsky Zapovednik); it was probably introduced here by native people few hundred years ago (Harkevich and Kachura 1981), but may be a Tertiary relict occurrence, in which case it would be an extreme biogeographic anomaly (Farjon 2010); Abies is otherwise unknown in Kamchatka.

Recruitment in this species is dependent upon dead wood, i.e. most seedlings recruit upon fallen logs (Lian et al. 2008). A similar dependency is seen in Picea sitchensis and Tsuga heterophylla in the Pacific Northwest.

The species (variety unspecified) is hardy to Zone 5 (cold hardiness limit between -28.8°C and -23.3°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Wilson (1916) says it is abundant in Hokkaido, occasionally in pure stands but usually with Picea jezoensis and deciduous hardwoods, or, in the northern part of the island, with Picea glehnii. In Sakhalin (which at the time was Japanese, south of 50°N), he found that it "covers enormous areas" with Picea jezoensis and Larix gmelinii var. japonica, chiefly on low mountain slopes.

Big tree

Wilson (1916) says the largest trees he found were "on the slopes of Shiribeshi-san near the town of Kutchan up to 1000 m. altitude" and were up to 250 cm girth (about 80 cm dbh) and 30 m tall.




This species is logged for pulp (the timber is of low quality). It is rarely seen as an ornamental and only does well in arboreta that experience cold enough winters to force it into winter dormancy (Farjon 2010).



The epithet sachalinensis refers to Sakhalin Island, the type locality, where it was discovered to science by the German botanist Carl Freidrich Schmidt in 1866.


Harkevich, S. and N. Kachura. 1981. Rare Plant Species of The Soviet Far East and Their Conservation. Nauka, Moscow (in Russian).

Lian, C., S. Goto, T. Kubo, Y. Takahashi, M. Nakagawa, and T. Hogetsu. 2008. Nuclear and chloroplast microsatellite analysis of Abies sachalinensis regeneration on fallen logs in a subboreal forest in Hokkaido, Japan. Molecular Ecology 17:2948-2962. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.03802.x.

Masters, M.T. 1879. The Gardeners' Chronicle ser. 2, 12:588, fig. 97.

Semerikova, S.A. and V.L. Semerikov. 2007. The diversity of chloroplast microsatellite loci in Siberian fir (Abies sibirica Ledeb.) and two Far East fir species A. nephrolepis (Trautv.) Maxim. and A. sachalinensis Fr. Schmidt. Russian Journal of Genetics 43(12):1373-1381.

See also

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.

Iwatsuki et al. (1995).

Last Modified 2017-12-29