Tree to 40 m, 0.8–1 m dbh. Bark smooth, thin, grey, becoming rough, scaly and grey-brown in older trees. Crown broadly conical or pyramidical, old trees having a somewhat open crown. Branchlets slender, firm, purplish red, becoming reddish or orange-brown with age, leaf scars circular, vegetative buds very resinous. Leaves glaucous-green, spirally arranged, 1–2 × 0.1–0.2 cm, slightly grooved, apex acute. Male strobili lateral, crowded, short (~0.5 cm), almost globular, with reddish microsporophylls. Female cones erect, short-pedunculate, barrel-shaped, apex obtuse or truncate, 6–12 × 4–6 cm, dark purple when immature, purple or blue with a hint of brown when mature, resinous. Seed scales fan-shaped to cuneate, 1.5–2 cm long. Bract scales spathulate, 0.8–1 cm long, with triangular cusp, exserted. Seeds brown, cuneate, wings cuneate or triangular, 1.5 × 1.2 cm, purplish brown. Farjon 1990. Distribution MEXICO: Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas. Habitat Steep mountain slopes between 2000 and 2200 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Lower Risk. Illustration Liu 1971, Farjon 1990; NT61. Cross-references B166, S31, K45. Taxonomic note Abies vejarii var. macrocarpa Martínez has larger cones, but only the nominate variety is in cultivation.
Abies vejarii is perhaps the most impressive of the recently introduced firs, with good trees to be found in several British arboreta. The finest is that at Thenford House, where it has been growing alongside an excellent Quercus semecarpifolia since both were presented by Keith Rushforth in 1986 (M. Heseltine, pers. comm. 2006). The Abies is growing incredibly well, and had reached approximately 20 m (43 cm dbh) by 2006, forming a magnificent cylindrical column of deep-green growth to its base. The unripe cones are light green, borne only at the top of the tree. There is another good specimen at Kew (15 m, 25 cm dbh), grown from KR 515 in 1985 and also thriving. Rushforth’s collection was made in 1984 in the Coahuila–Nuevo León part of its range (Clarke 1988), but the first introduction was made in 1962, according to Mitchell (1972), although no details are provided. It was also collected by Michael Frankis (no. 151) at 3180 m on Cerro Potosí in 1991, trees from which source are growing at the Hillier Gardens and Tregrehan. A good specimen of A. vejarii has also been seen at Mount Usher, and the distribution of specimens over 10 m recorded by TROBI suggests that this is a very adaptable and fast-growing species. Its tolerance of the comparatively warm, dry conditions of southern and south-central England is particularly useful. It is also cultivated in the United States: for example, at the Washington Park Arboretum, where a tree planted in 1970 (from a commercial source) is now a shapely 18 m tall, although has yet to fruit. This specimen has not suffered any winter damage, and appears to be very well suited to the Seattle climate (R. Hitchin, pers. comm. 2007).