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A tree 100, occasionally 130 ft high in Japan; young shoots without down, but corrugated with the wrinkled protuberances on which the leaves are seated, the groove between the leaf-bases being deep; buds resinous. Leaves 1⁄3 to 11⁄8 in. long, about 1⁄16 in. wide; slightly notched at the flattish apex, dark bright green above, with two broad, blue-white stomatic bands beneath. The undermost leaves are the longest, and they spread horizontally; above them each succeeding rank becomes smaller and more erect, leaving at last a very narrow, or scarcely perceptible V-shaped opening along the top. Cones 3 to 4 in. long, 11⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide tapered at top and bottom, purple, finally brown; bracts quite enclosed. Bot. Mag., t. 7114.
Native of Japan; introduced about 1870. This is one of the most thriving and handsome of firs, and very hardy. It occasionally bears good crops of its rich purple cones, and is then very beautiful. It is, perhaps, best distinguished by the deeply corrugated branchlets, the grooves in which become deeper the two following years, by the scaly bark of the trunk and the short, notched leaves. A few of the best specimens on record are: Taymouth Castle, Perths., 101 × 101⁄4 ft (1961); Westonbirt, Glos., pl. 1880, 87 × 71⁄4 ft (1966); Yester House, E. Lothian, 88 × 83⁄4 ft (1955); Grayswood Hill, Surrey, pl. 1882, 82 × 81⁄4 and 82 × 71⁄2 ft (1964); Bodnant, Denbigh, 87 × 71⁄2 ft (1966).
specimens: Wakehurst Place, Sussex, pl. 1916, 82 × 7 ft (1979); Abbotsbury, Dorset, 102 × 63⁄4 ft (1980); Westonbirt, Glos., in Loop Walk, pl. 1880, 85 × 71⁄2 ft (1977); Stanage Park, Glos., pl. 1910, 98 × 83⁄4 ft (1978); Sidbury Manor, Devon, pl. 1898, 88 × 81⁄2 ft (1977); Hergest Croft, Heref., 79 × 83⁄4 ft (1977); Tremough, Cornwall, 85 × 103⁄4 ft (1977); Leighton Hall, Powys, 74 × 10 ft (1984); Taymouth Castle, Perths., 111 × 113⁄4 ft (1983); Monteviot, Roxburghs., 98 × 9 ft (1983); Glamis Castle, Angus, in Pinetum, 85 × 111⁄4 ft (1981); Ardross Castle, Ross, in the Garden, 80 × 9 ft (1980); Castlewellan, Co. Down, 70 × 10 ft (1982); Caledon Castle, Co. Armagh, 102 × 63⁄4 ft (1980); Abbeyleix, Co. Laois, Eire, by River Walk, 88 × 9 ft (1985); Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 26 ft high in 1931, 90 × 8 ft (1980).
This species was described by Bean (B156, S26) and Krüssmann (K36).
A. homolepis f. tomomi (NOW A. homolepis Siebold & Zucc. var. homolepis) K37
This variety differs from the type in several characters of the cones. Immature cones are green rather than purple, and the apex is umbilicate rather than obtuse. The cones are usually larger than those of the type. Farjon 1990. Distribution JAPAN: central Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku. Habitat Montane forest between 700 and 2000 m asl. Var. umbellata grows in mesic soils, in a cool, humid climate. USDA Hardiness Zone 5. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Liu 1971. Cross-reference K37. Taxonomic note This variety is often sympatric with both the type variety and A. firma Siebold & Zucc., and may be a hybrid (Liu 1971).
Abies homolepis var. umbellata is generally more written about than grown, and is probably of limited horticultural difference to the type. Trees from seed collected by E.H. Wilson (Wilson 4078) are still growing in some collections, including one particularly large specimen at Dawyck, planted in 1924 (an adjacent plaque informs visitors that it was measured at 24.5 m, 71 cm dbh, in 2001). This remains densely clad with branches and foliage, and although a fine tree, is decidedly sombre. There are also some younger specimens in the Scottish botanical gardens from cultivated origins. In the Rogów Arboretum there is a forest plot with 30 specimens, planted in 1959, that are healthy and fully hardy in the continental conditions experienced in Poland (P. Banaszczak, pers. comm. 2007).