Abies fargesii / Farges fir

Abies fargesii, as described in 1899 by Adrien René Franchet (1834 – 1900), in Journal de Botanique (Morot) vol.13 no.8 is commonly known as Farges fir in the English language, as well as 巴山冷杉 (bashan lengshan) in Chinese. Franchet named it after the French missionary, botanist and plant collector, Paul Guillaume Farges. It should be noted that the closely-related A. fanjingshanensis may also prove to be a variety of A. fargesii.

There are three recognized varieties:

  • Abies fargesii var. fargesii, the typical variety which is described here.
  • Abies fargesii var. faxoniana
  • Abies fargesii var. sutchuenensis

Description. Farges fir is an evergreen coniferous species of tree which will grow to a mature height of 130 feet (40 m) tall with a 60 to 80 inch (150 - 200 cm) diameter, measured at breast height.

  • trunk is cylindrical.
  • First-order branches are massive, short, and sparse. Second-order branches spreading, assurgent, or pendant below.
  • Its crown is narrowly-pyramidal or conical in structure.
  • Bark is smooth, gray, and finely-flaky on young trees, becoming gray-brown, scaly, and fissured on older trees.
  • Branchlets are smooth, shallowly grooved, and slightly pubescent within the grooves and are reddish brown, purplish or 'mahogany' (variable) in color.
  • Foliar buds are ovoid to broadly obtuse, measuring 0.24 to 0.3 inch (6 - 8 mm) long and 0.16 to 0.2 inch (4-5 mm) wide, slightly resinous and purple-red. Bud scales are triangular-ovate and yellowish-brown in color, persisting for several years.
  • Leaves are spirally arranged, crowded in several overlapping ranks of unequal length. The lower leaves are spiny and held upright on coning shoots, 0.4 to 1.8 inches (1 - 4.5) cm long by 0.08 to 0.14 inch (2 - 3.5 mm) wide, twisted at the base, stomata below in two bands divided by a midrib; shining green above, whitish- or glaucous-green below.
  • Pollen cones are yellow with red microsporophylls, cylindrical, 0.5 inch (13 mm) long by 0.2 inch (5 mm) wide, crowded and axillary near the shoot apex.
  • Seed cones are bluish-purple when young, maturing to purplish- or reddish-brown, ovoid-oblong or broadly cylindric, 2 to 3.5 inches (5 - 9 cm) long by 1.2 to 1.6 inches (3 - 4 cm) broad with very short peduncles.
  • Seeds are oblong and black, measuring 0.2 inch (5 - 6 mm) long by 0.12 to 0.15 inch (3 - 3.5 mm) long with the black, cuneate, oblique wing.

Distribution. This species is native to central China — Gansu, Henan, Hubei, Shaanxi, and Sichuan provinces. It grows in mountains and river basins at altitudes between 5,000 and 12,800 feet (1,500 – 3,900 m) above sea level.

Abies fargesii is a timber tree used in construction and for pulp.

Attribution from: Aljos Farjon; Pinaceae: drawings and descriptions of the genera Abies, Cedrus, Pseudolarix, Keteleeria, Nothotsuga, Tsuga, Cathaya, Pseudotsuga, Larix and Picea; ©1990, Koeltz Scientific Books, Königstein, Germany.

Abies fargesii at Arnold Arboretum, Boston, Massachusetts. This tree was grown from wild-collected Chinese seed from E.H. Wilson in 1911.
Photo by John Waskiewicz
Abies fargesii — a tree growing in habitat, Jiuzhaigou Valley, Sichuan, China, 2,650m altitude.
Photo by James Ho via Flickr
Abies fargesii — a closeup of seed cone detail.
Photo by Bill Barger
Abies fargesii — a closeup of cones and needles.
Photo by eFloras.org
Abies fargesii — closeup of foliage, JC Raulston Arboretum, University of North Carolina, Raleigh.
Photo by Tom Cox
Abies fargesii — closeup of foliage (underside), JC Raulston Arboretum, University of North Carolina, Raleigh.
Photo by Tom Cox