Abies koreana / Korean fir

Abies koreana, as described in 1920 by E.H. Wilson (1876 – 1930), in Journal of the Arnold Arboretum, is commonly known as Korean fir; as well as 구상나무, (Gusang namu) in the Korean language. Wilson collected the type in 1917 on Quelpaert Island, Hallai-San (now known as Hallasan National Park on Jeju Island).

Drawing by Rene Eisenbart
Drawing by Rene Eisenbart

  • Description. Korean fir is an evergreen coniferous species of tree that will grow to a mature height of 30 to 60 feet (9 - 18 m) tall with a 3 to 6 foot (1 - 2 m) diameter trunk at breast height.
  • Bark is smooth, with resin blisters, becoming furrowed and plate-like, purplish then pale gray, with a reddish-brown inner-bark.
  • Branchlets are grooved, slightly pubescent, shiny gray or yellowish-red becoming purplish.
  • Buds are ovoid, free from the leaves, chestnut-brown to red with whitish resin, 0.03 to 0.05 inch (0.8 - 1.2 mm) in diameter.
  • Foliage grows crowded, spreading upwards and outwards, nearly spirally arranged, straight, linear, keeled below, shiny green above, bluish-white below; stomata usually absent above, with 10 stomatal lines below; 0.4 to 1 inch (1 - 2.5 cm) long by ca. 0.1 inch (2 - 3 mm) wide, with a notched apex.
  • Pollen cones are globular-ovoid, reddish-yellow or green tinted violet-brown 0.4 inch (1 cm) long by 0.3 inch (0.7 cm) wide.
  • Seed cones are broadly rounded, blunt-topped, 2 to 2.8 inches (5 - 7 cm) long by 1 to 1.6 inches (2.5 - 4 cm) wide, Blue-gray at first then turning dark violet with white resin spots.
  • Seeds are ovoid, within a violet-purple nut, 0.28 inch (7 mm) long with a reddish-brown wing.
Distribution. This species is native to Korea — Jeju Island and Chirisan, growing at elevations of 3,200 to 6,000 feet (1,000 - 1,900 m) above sea level, in temperate rain forest with high rainfall and cool, humid summers, and heavy winter snowfall.

Hardy to Zone 5 — cold hardiness limit between -20° and -10°F (-28.8°C and -23.3°C).

Attribution from: E.H. Wilson; Four new conifers from Korea. ©1920, Journal of the Arnold Arboretum, Boston, MA; vol.1:186-190.

Abies koreana 'Starker's Dwarf' in the Harper Collection of Dwarf & Rare Conifers at Hidden Lakes Garden in Tipton, Michigan, August 2005.
Photo by Dax Herbst
The tree was topped year ago by students for a Christmas tree for their dorm. Taken at Lyle Littlefield trial garden Orono Maine
Photo by Don Levesque
These are cones on straight species Abies koreana, photo taken probably in July.
Photo by Phil Syphrit/Cornell Plantations
Abies koreana — detail of seed cones and foliage at Cox Arboretum, Canton, Georgia.
Photo by Tom Cox
Abies koreana — a young tree at Cox Arboretum, Canton, Georgia.
Photo by Tom Cox
Abies koreana — a Korean fir tree planted at the UBC Botanical Garden, Vanvouver, B.C., Canada
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — foliage of Korean fir
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — foliage showing lighter color of undersides of needles
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — close-up of needles showing indented tips
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — early summer, flush with new needles
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — pollen cones reaching maturity in spring
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — view of pollen cones, terminal buds swelling
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — round, waxy terminal buds
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — partially mature upright seed cones in late spring
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — upright, maturing seed cones
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — mature upright cones
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Abies koreana — close-up of green cone scales on bluish cones
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca

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