A tree up to 250 ft high in nature; bark on young or middle-aged trees whitish; young shoots downy; winter buds small, globose, very resinous. Leaves crowded at the sides and on the upper surface of the shoot, which they completely hide from above; 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. long, 1⁄16 to 1⁄12 in. wide, broadest towards the apex; the uppermost leaves are considerably the shorter, and point forwards, the lower ones spread horizontally; all are rich glossy green and deeply grooved above, vividly blue-white and with broad bands of stomata beneath; apex notched. Cones rich purple, 4 to 6 in. long, 2 to 21⁄2 in. wide, tapering slightly towards the rounded top; bracts enclosed. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 306.
Native of S.E. Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon; discovered by Douglas in 1825, introduced five years later. Later sendings were in 1851 and 1882. This beautiful fir, which in open situations clothes itself to the ground with gracefully drooping branches, has not been a success in British gardens. It seems to be short-lived in cultivation, trees from the original introduction being mostly dead by the turn of the century, although in its native habitat the Pacific silver fir reaches maturity at about 250 years. From his knowledge of existing specimens, A. F. Mitchell concludes: 'It can be miffy, scraggy and gaunt; or make luscious, vigorous, rich, symmetrical trees of superb shape, as at Benmore, Stanage Park, and Castlewellan.'
Some of the best specimens recorded by Mr Mitchell are: Doldowlod, Merioneth, 97 × 11 ft (1959); Killerton, Devon, pl. 1909, 96 × 81⁄2 ft (1964); Benmore, Argyll, 86 × 71⁄2 ft, growing fast (1964); Leonardslee, Sussex, 73 × 41⁄2 ft (1962); Stanage Park, Radnor, 73 × 63⁄4 ft (1959); Castlewellan, Co. Down, 86 × 91⁄2 ft (1966).
A. amabilis is sometimes confused with A. nordmanniana, which it resembles in several respects, notably in the arrangement of the leaves on the shoot; but the winter buds, looking like globes of resin, easily distinguish it, and the leaves have an odour like orange peel. See also A. mariesii.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
specimens: Stanage Park, Powys, 87 × 81⁄2 ft (1978); Hergest Croft, Heref., pl. 1898, 80 × 73⁄4 ft (1978); Scone Castle, Perths., 93 × 6 ft (1974); Benmore, Argyll, 115 × 10 ft (1983); Ardross Castle, Ross, pl. 1900, 70 × 9 ft (1980); Castlewellan, Co. Down, 105 × 103⁄4 ft- (1982); Headfort, Co. Meath, Eire, pl. 1914, 59 × 9 ft and 62 × 61⁄4 ft (1980).
The tree at Doldowlod, Powys, measured in 1959, is not this species but A. nordmanniana.
† cv. 'Spreading Star'. – Of procumbent habit, in time attaining a considerable width, and building up in the centre. It was found in a Dutch arboretum and originally distributed by Messrs Hesse of Germany as A. amabilis procumbens.