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Trees at Tiengboche, Nepal [Vladimir Dinets].


"[P]hotographed in Nepal on the Milke Danda Range" (van Gelderen et al. 1986).


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


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Conservation status

Abies spectabilis

(D. Don) Spach 1841

Common names

East Himalayan fir (Vidakovic 1991).

Taxonomic notes

Syn: Pinus spectabilis D. Don 1825; Pinus webbiana Wall ex D. Don in Lambert 1828; A. webbiana (Wall ex D. Don) Lindl. 1833; Picea webbiana (Wall ex D. Don) Loudon 1838 (Farjon 1998); A. chiloensis Hort.; A. chilrowensis Hort. Griff. (Vidakovic 1991). Vidakovic (1991) describes a variety brevifolia.

"This species hybridizes freely with A. pindrow forming intermediate populations in the altitudinal middle zone of their common distribution" (Vidakovic 1991).


"A tree attaining in the E. Himalaya a height of 60 m. Crown broadly conical. Branches horizontally spreading. Bark dark gray, rough and scaly. Shoots red-brown, deeply grooved, pubescent in the grooves. Buds large, globose, resinous. Needles on the upper side of the shoot arranged in several ranks, leaving a V-shaped depression between them, 2-6 cm long, with emarginate apex; upper surface dark green and glossy, with 2 broad stomata bands beneath. Cones cylindrical, 14-20 cm long and about 7 cm thick, violet-purple when young, later brown; seed scales 1.5-2 cm wide; bract scales concealed" (Vidakovic 1991). This description could also apply to Abies densa, which Vidakovic seems not to have discriminated. See Wu and Raven 1999 for a more recent and detailed description.

Distribution and Ecology

Afghanistan: Hindu Kush; Tibet; India: Karakoram & Kashmir Himalaya; Nepal (Farjon 1998); Sikkim and Bhutan at 2500-4000 m elevation (Vidakovic 1991).

Hardy to Zone 7 (cold hardiness limit between -17.7°C and -12.2°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

It commonly occurs as a canopy dominant species in very wet forest, accompanied by species of Rhododendron including R. campanuletum, R. lepedetum, and R. anthapogen, as well as Betula utilis (Yadav et al. 2004, Chhetri 2008) and, at lower elevations, Pinus wallichiana (Tiwari et al. 2017).

A. spectabilis forest in Nepal has been found to be extending its closed canopy and upper treeline forest to higher elevations in response to climate change (Tiwari et al. 2017).

Big tree



Chhetri (2008) briefly describes his own work, performed in 2008, making collections at study sites at the alpine timberline sites (3700 m) near Cholangpati, Nepal, and also in Langtang National Park, Nepal. He also provides the following summary of previous dendrochronological work using this species:

"Schmidit et al. (1999) collected 400 archeological wood samples and living trees samples from Mustang region during 1989 and 1992. Tree species used were Pinus wallichiana, Abies spectabilis and Picea smithiana. ... Douglas (2000) reconstructed the temperature of Kalinchok, Nepal with the help of tree ring chronology (1729-1978) of A. spectabilis and found that significant variability in S-O-N [September-October-November] temperatures during the period of reconstruction. Sano et al. (2002) reconstructed the climatic data for past 284 years using A. spectabilis in western Nepal. He found increase in temperature during last 30 years. ... Yasue et al. (2002) developed a chronology of ring width and densities ranging from 1722 to 2000 of central Nepal using A. spectabilis and suggested tree ring width and densities might be good indicators for reconstruction of climate conditions of pre-monsoon. ... Sano et al. (2002) reconstructed past 298 years Pre-monsoon temperature of Eastern Nepal using wood density variables of A. spectabilis and concluded that temperature reconstruction do not show any significant sign of recent global warming as do many of those from higher latitudes as well as in apparent contradiction with massive glacial retreat in the Himalaya over last 100 years or so. Khanal and Rijal (2002) developed 345 years (1656-2001) tree ring chronology based on sample of 48 cores from trees of A. spectabilis from Ganesh Himal Area, Central Nepal and found negative correlation between temperature in May and tree growth and positive correlation between precipitation in April and tree ring growth."





Chhetri, Parveen Kumar. 2008. Nepal Dendrochronology., accessed 2008.07.24.

Douglas, D.L 2002. Temperature Variation in Kalinchok, Nepal (1729-1078) using Himalayan Silver Fir trees as proxy data. Arizona State University task force report.

Khanal, N.R and S.P. Rijal 2002. Tree ring chronology from Ganesh Himal Area, Central Nepal. Pp. 12-19 in Geothermal / Dendrochronological Paleoclimate Reconstruction across Eastern Margin of Eurasia. Proceedings of the 2002 International Mastsuyama Workshop.

Sano, M., F. Furuta., O. Kobayashi and T. Sweda 2002. Paleoclimate reconstruction for western Nepal based on Abies spectabilis tree-ring width and density. Pp. 2-11 in Geothermal / Dendrochronological Paleoclimate Reconstruction across Eastern Margin of Eurasia. Proceedings of the 2002 International Mastsuyama Workshop.

Schmidit, B., T. Wazny., K. Malla., E. Hofs and M. Khalessi. 1999. Chronologies for Historical Dating in High Asia/Nepal. In R. Wimmer and R.E. Vetter (Eds.) Tree Ring Analysis: Biological, Methodological and Environmental Aspects. CABI International.

Spach. 1841. Hist. Nat. Veg. Phan. 11:422.

Tiwari, A., Z. X. Fan, A. S. Jump, S. F. Li, and Z. K. Zhou. 2017. Gradual expansion of moisture sensitive Abies spectabilis forest in the Trans-Himalayan zone of central Nepal associated with climate change. Dendrochronologia 41:34-43.

Yadav, R.R., J. Singh, B. Dubey, and R. Chaturvedi. 2004. Varying strength of relationship between temperature and growth of high-level fir at marginal ecosystems in western Himalaya, India. Current Science 8:1152–1156.

Yasue K., M. Noda., O. Kobayashi., M. Sano., T. Kato and T. Sweda. 2002. Dendroclimatological potential of Abies spectabilis at Khurpudada pass, Ganesh Himal, Central Nepal. Pp. 20 in Geothermal/Dendrochronological Paleoclimate Reconstruction across Eastern Margin of Eurasia. Proceedings of the 2002 International Mastsuyama Workshop.

See also

Farjon ( 1990, 2010).

Jain, K.K. 1976: Introgressive hybridization in the West Himalayan silver firs. Silvae Genetica 25(3-4): 107-109.

Last Modified 2017-09-16