Abies nordmanniana Spach

Common names

Caucasian Fir

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New Trees

A tree described as reaching 200 ft in height in a wild state, with a trunk 4 to 5 ft in diameter; young shoots shining grey-brown, furnished with short stiff hairs; buds not resinous, ovoid. Leaves very densely arranged, mostly on the upper side of the shoot, the lower ones being the longer, and spreading horizontally; the upper ones shorter, and pointing forward; it is only on weak shoots that any indication of a two-ranked or V-shaped arrangement is seen. The leaves measure 34 to 112 in. in length, 116 to 112 in. wide, apex rounded and notched; very dark glossy green above, midrib sunken, two whitish stomatic bands beneath. Cones 5 or 6 in. long, 134 to 2 in. wide, cylindrical or tapered towards the top, reddish brown; scales 114 to 134 in. wide, 58 to 34 in. deep; bracts conspicuously protruded and bent downwards. Bot. Mag., t. 6992.

Native of the Caucasus and Asia Minor; discovered in 1836 and first distributed in Britain by Lawson of Edinburgh a few years later. It is undoubtedly one of the handsomest and, in most places, best-growing of the firs, although in some places very subject to the attacks of aphis. It thrives in very much the same conditions that suit A. grandis but tolerates more lime in the soil. In foliage it is not unlike the W. American A. amabilis, which has, however, more rounded and resinous buds, and cones with enclosed bracts. Botanically, it stands much closer to A. alba.

It is possible to mention only a few of the fine specimens in the British Isles: Oakley Park, Shrops., 132 × 9 ft (1960); Woodhouse, Devon, 126 × 812 ft (1957); Taymouth Castle, Perths., 120 × 13 ft, a superb tree with very luxuriant foliage (1961); Benmore, Argyll, 120 × 934 ft (1964); Vivod, Denbigh, 117 × 712 ft (1964); Moor Park, Shrops., 115 × 834 ft (1962); Durris House, Kinc., 114 × 12 ft (1955); Mells Park, Somerset, 113 × 912 ft, with a very fine bole (1962); Boconnoc, Cornwall, 111 × 1134 ft, a very fine tree (1957).

At Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, there are large numbers in splendid vigour and size, planted in 1867. Of these the largest is 134 × 1414 ft (1966).

cv. 'Pendula'. – Branches pendulous; originated in Young's nursery, Milford, Surrey. A tree at Headfort, Co. Meath, Eire, probably belongs here. It was planted in 1916 and measures 60 × 4 ft (1966).

At Belladrum, Inverness-shire, there is a remarkable tree 102 ft high, making a fine, narrow, solid column and with incurved, twisted needles. It agrees with the description of 'Tortifolia' but is unlikely to be of that clone.

A. bornmuelleriana Mattf. – A species allied to the preceding but with some of the characters of A. cephalonica, notably the resinous buds and glabrous shoots. It has been considered to be a hybrid between them, but if so, the crossing must have taken place in the distant past, since the two species are not in contact at the present time. It has a small range in N.W. Asia Minor, where it forms forests on the Bithynian Olympus. It is distinguished from A. nordmanniana by the characters mentioned, and from A. cephalonica by its emarginate leaves. There are examples of over 80 ft at Dropmore, Bucks., and Gordon Castle, Moray.

A. × insignis Carr. ex Bailly – This name covers the various hybrids that have arisen in cultivation between A. nordmanniana and A. pinsapo. The type form occurred spontaneously in a French nursery and was a seedling of A. pinsapo, but the same cross was made deliberately, also in France, using A. nordmanniana as the seed parent.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Oakley Park, Shrops., 141 × 10 ft (1978); Mells Park, Som., 113 × 912 ft (1972); Endsleigh, Devon, 115 × 1512 ft (1977); Boconnoc, Cornwall, 130 × 1214 ft (1983); Cragside, Northumb., 152 × 1112 ft (1984); Lingholm, Cumb., 108 × 1312 ft (1983); Dunans, Argyll, 141 × 1134 ft (1985); Benmore, Argyll, in Avenue, 148 × 1012 ft, by Bridge, 150 × 11 ft and, by Entrance, 148 × 1112 ft (1983); Taymouth Castle, Perths., 135 × 1412 ft and 132 × 1334 ft (1983); Cortachy Castle, Angus, pl. 1872, 120 × 13 ft (1981); Durris House, Kincard., 130 × 13 ft (1980), and another tree 117 × 1112 ft (1980); Ardross Castle, Ross, 88 × 1314 ft (1980); Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 92 × 1512 ft and 102 × 1434 ft (1975); Coolattin, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 129 × 1412 ft (1975).

† cv. 'Golden Spreader'. – Of spreading habit and slow growth, with bright yellow foliage. This occurred as a seedling in a Dutch nursery and was put into commerce in 1961. It was originally known as 'Aurea Nana' (Den Ouden & Boom, Man. Cult. Conif. (1965), p. 33).

A. bornmuelleriana – Contrary to what was stated on page 161, this fir has an extensive range in northern Anatolia, as far east as about 36° E., where it is separated by only a fairly short gap from the south-western stands of A. nordmanniana. Its leaves are arranged more or less as in that species, but they are more crowded and stiffer, with some stomata on the upper surface, and the winter-buds are resinous. In these characters it resembles A. cephalonica, and Liu subscribes to the view that it is the result of hybridisation between the two species. In Flora of Turkey it is placed under A. nordmanniana as subsp. bornmuelleriana (Mattf.) Coode & Cullen. It might be added that, since A. nordmanniana and A. cephalonica have both been grown in western Europe for well over a century, trees resembling A. bornmuelleriana might be hybrids of cultivated origin.

Immediately to the west of A. bornmuelleriana lies the Mount Ida fir, A. equi-trojani. This, mentioned above under A. cephalonica, is controversially placed under A. nordmanniana in Flora of Turkey as another subspecies, but is really nearer to A. cephalonica and indeed is included in A. cephalonica var. graeca (apollinis) by Liu.

All the species mentioned, and A. borisii-regis, belong to the same section of the genus as A. alba, and form a chain, with A. alba at one end and A. nordmanniana at the other.

Two examples of A. bornmuelleriana are: Cairnsmore, Kirkcud., 82 × 1114 ft (1984); and Altyre, Moray, 56 × 414 ft (1985).

From New Trees

Abies nordmanniana (Steven) Spach

Caucasian Fir, Nordmann Fir

This species was described by Bean (B160, S27) and Krüssmann (K41), but it has now gained a sub species.

Abies nordmanniana subsp. equi-trojani (Asch. & Sint. ex Boiss.) Coode & Cullen

Trojan Horse Fir

Syn. A. bornmuelleriana Mattf., A. equi-trojani (Asch. & Sint. ex Boiss.) Mattf.

The vegetative morphology of this subspecies is somewhat intermediate between A. nordmanniana and A. cephalonica. The branchlets are glabrous and the leaves are small with an acute apex. Subsp. nordmanniana has pubescent branchlets and leaves with an emarginate apex. The cones are very similar to those of the type sub species, though the bract scales and associated cusps may be smaller. Davis et al. 1965, Farjon 1990. Distribution TURKEY: western mountains, Kaz Dag, Ulu Dag. Habitat North-facing mountain slopes between 900 and 2100 m asl. Soils calcareous. USDA Hardiness Zone 5. Conservation status Lower Risk. Illustration NT56. Taxonomic note Abies bornmuelleriana (placed in synonymy with A. nordmanniana subsp. equi-trojani by Farjon 2001) is a puzzling taxon, as it shares characters with both subspecies. As in the nominate subspecies, the leaves have an emarginate apex, yet like subsp. equi-trojani, the branchlets are glabrous. Unlike either subspecies, the buds of A. bornmuelleriana are resinous (Davis et al. 1965). The distribution of A. bornmuelleriana is intermediate between those of the two subspecies of A. nordmanniana, and it may be the product of hybridisation. Bean (1976a) suggested a hybrid origin for A. bornmuelleriana, but with A. cephalonica as one of the parents.

The Trojan Horse Fir has inveigled itself into numerous collections over the years and seems to be as tolerant as the familiar subsp. nordmanniana, and just as magnificent. In the wild it can become a very large tree, field notes from the Flanagan & Pitman expedition to Turkey in 1990 reporting specimens of 35 m growing with Fagus orientalis at 1650 m on the southern slopes of Ulu Dag in Bursa Province. Specimens from this provenance (TURX 20) are in cultivation at Wakehurst Place where they are growing steadily into tidy young trees, of about 5 m in 2005. The largest known in cultivation in the British Isles is a 22.5 m tall tree (dbh 60 cm) at Rowallane, Co. Down, measured in 2000 (TROI). It does well at Rogów Arboretum, but would seem to be a bit slower-growing there than in England, as although trees of Turkish origin planted in 1981 are dense and well shaped they are still only 5 m tall (P. Banaszczak, pers. comm. 2007). On the other side of the Atlantic, there is a beautiful specimen of approximately 15 m at the Morris Arboretum, accessioned as wild-origin seed in 1956 and now looking impressive, with branches sweeping to the ground.

The Trojan Horse Fir Abies nordmanniana subsp. equi-trojani (here at Kew) quickly forms an attractive tree. Image J. Grimshaw.

Abies nordmanniana



Other species in the genus