Abies pinsapo 'Aurea' / golden Spanish fir

Abies pinsapo 'Aurea,' commonly known as The Golden Spanish fir, is a golden variant that retains the symmetrical growth habit and stiff-needled branches of the species. Abies pinsapo 'Aurea' has bright gold new growth that turns green by winter in some parts of the country. In more moderate parts of the world the golden color is present year-round. The gold is most pronounced on the upper surfaces of the new growth. Burning can be a problem until the plant is established, and it is not very tolerant of subzero winter temperatures. Some of the gold becomes white-gold and is retained well into the winter. (Fincham, Robert L.)

Due to the lack of chlorophyll in the foliage, 'Aurea' grows slightly slower than the species. Typical rate of growth in most locations is 4 to 6 inches (10 - 15 cm) annually, producing a small dense tree 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and 4 feet wide (1.2 m) after 10 years in the landscape.

This cultivar originated as a seedling introduced in 1868 by Adrien Sénéclauze Nursery of Bourg-Argental, France.

Abies pinsapo aurea — a lovely specimen, resplendent with seed cones, in a private garden in Petaluma, California (USDA Zone 9, Mediterranean climate).
Photo by Sara Malone
Abies pinsapo 'Aurea' — a closeup of golden foliage and maroon pollen cones ... a captivating combination.
Photo by Sara Malone
Abies pinsapo 'Aurea' in a private garden in Rochester, New York.
Photo by Elmer Dustman
Abies pinsapo 'Aurea' — photo copyright of The Wildlife & Conifer Garden, donated by Don and Nonda Surrat, Ohio, USA.
Photo by Nonda Surratt
Abies pinsapo 'Aurea' — a closeup of foliage detail. Photo copyright of Green Industry Images; donated by Ernie Wiegand.
Photo by Ernie Wiegand



Will the Abies pinsapo 'Aurea' the golden Spanish fir survive in zone 10a?

Maxwell Cohn

that depends on the climate. Zone 10a - California (Mediterranean climate) possible ... Zone 10a - Florida (tropical) - probably not.


I've found a lot of conflicting information about this tree's growth rate and size in my research. I always come back to the conifer society to double-check and am so thankful for this site. In this case, the conifer society website says the typical rate of growth is 4-6" per year in the plant description, but the side bar on the right says 12"+ per year. Which would you say is more accurate? The sense I get overall is that this tree grows slowly (probably about 4-6"/yr), but continues to grow at that rate for a long time and eventually becomes a big tree that is about 25' tall and 15' wide...does this match what you've found? If so, I definitely need to move it now while it's still small!

Maxwell Cohn

Hi Kelsey ... it's actually a tricky question. By my observations in the field, during a plant's first 20 years, the rate of growth will be fairly slow, around 6 inches per year. As they get older, they're not as golden and start growing faster, 12 inches or more per year. The largest one I've ever seen was on the grounds of the former Stanley & Sons Nursery in Oregon.

Of course individual results will vary greatly depending on how different the climate in which it's planted differs from Spain and Morocco's Mediterranean climate.