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Abies nebrodensis

(Sicilian fir)

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Abies nebrodensis first described by Michele Lojacono (1853–1919), work later completed in 1908 by Giovanni Ettore Mattei (1865–1943), is commonly known as Sicilian fir or as abete dei nebrodi in the Italian language. It is closely related to silver fir (A. alba), which replaces it in the Apennine Mountains of Italy and elsewhere further north in Europe. Some botanists treat Sicilian fir as a variety of silver fir, as Abies alba var. nebrodensis.

Description. Sicilian fir is an evergreen coniferous species of tree which will grow to heights of 50 to 80 feet (15 – 25 m) with a trunk of up to 3.2 feet (1 m) in diameter at breast height. The leaves are needle-like, flattened, 0.6 to 1 inch (1.5 – 2.5 cm) long and 0.08 inch (2 mm) wide by 0.02 inch (0.5 mm) thick, glossy dark green above, and with two greenish-white bands of stomata below. The tip of the leaf is blunt with a notched tip, but sometimes with a pointed tip, particularly on shoots high on older trees. The seed cones are 4 to 6.4 inches (10 – 16 cm) long and 1.6 inches (4 cm) broad, with about 150 scales, each scale with an exserted bract and two winged seeds; they disintegrate when mature to release the seeds.

The Italian island of Sicily. Abies nebrodensis is native to the Monti Nebrodi region.

Distribution. This species is native to Italy — the Nebrodi and Madonie mountains in northern Sicily where, as a result of deforestation, it is now extremely rare, with only 21 mature trees surviving; replanting programs are meeting with limited success due to heavy grazing pressure by livestock belonging to local farmers. It is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.


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