Tree to 40 m, to 1 m dbh. Bark smooth, grey-brown with numerous resin blisters in young trees, breaking into plates in older trees. Crown narrow, pyramidical or conical. Branchlets slender, firm, yellowish grey or pale brown, then grey with age; densely pubescent though glabrous later; leaf scars small, circular; vegetative buds densely resinous. Leaves spirally arranged, 1.3–3 cm × 0.15 cm, apex emarginate to acute. Male strobili lateral and crowded on the underside of the shoot, 1.5 cm long, yellow with red microsporophylls. Female cones erect, nearly sessile, cylindrical, apex obtuse, 5–7.5 × 2.5–3.5 cm, purpleblue when immature, blue-brown or greenish brown when mature. Seed scales flabellate, 1–1.2 cm long. Bract scales included, short and rounded, 0.8 cm long with a tiny cusp. Seeds brown and cuneate, wings broad-cuneate, 1–1.2 cm long. Farjon 1990, Fu et al. 1999c. Distribution CHINA: Xinjiang; RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Amur, Buryatiya, Chita, Irkutsk, Itay, Khabarovsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tuva, West Siberia, Yakutiya. Habitat One of the characteristic tree species of the taiga, together with Picea obovata and Larix gmelinii. Occurs between 0 and 2000 m asl, on alluvial (and calcareous) soils. USDA Hardiness Zone 2. Conservation status Lower Risk. Illustration Liu 1971, Farjon 1990, Fu et al. 1999c; NT44, NT59. Cross-references B160, K44.
Bean’s rather cursory note on Abies sibirica (1976a) was probably appropriate, as this species does not do well in the British Isles and needs a colder climate to thrive. The new growth is very prone to spring frosts, which cripple the tree early in life. In the British Isles a few specimens have straggled up to 10 m and some even beyond this, the largest recorded being a 14 m (30 cm dbh) tree at Abbeyleix, Co. Laois, although this was in a poor state when measured in 2000 (TROI). The species may be worth trying in the United States in the upper Midwest, or in Canada, but the experience at Rogów is that although it can be fast-growing it is weak and short-lived, with damage to new shoots from spring frosts (P. Banaszczak, pers. comm. 2007).