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A tree 50 to 70 ft high; young shoots brown, furnished with a more or less scattered, minute down; buds globose, very resinous, purplish. Leaves 1⁄2 to 13⁄8 in. long, 1⁄16 in. wide, the base tapered, the apex cut off straight and notched; dark glossy green and grooved above, vividly white with stomatic lines beneath. All the leaves point forwards, and most of them curve more or less upwards; a few occur underneath the shoot, but most of them are above it or at the sides. On lateral shoots growing erect or nearly erect, the leaves are arranged about equally round the twig. Cones cylindrical, 2 to 21⁄2 in. long, about 1 in. wide; blue-purple at first.
Native of central and southern Japan; discovered by John Gould Veitch on Mt Fuji in 1860; introduced by Maries in 1879. Among silver firs this species is very distinct, on account of the narrow, truncate leaves, pointed forwards and curving upwards, and intensely blue-white beneath. The trunk is smooth even on old trees, and characteristically folded into wrinkles around the branch insertions. It is not a long-lived species; the tree at Murthly Castle, mentioned in previous editions (31 ft in 1906), had attained twice that height by 1931 but is now dead, as are many others planted at the end of the last century. The following are the best recorded: Westonbirt, Glos., pl. 1916, 76 × 33⁄4 ft (1966); Dawyck, Peebl., 70 × 51⁄4, 72 × 33⁄4 and 70 × 7 ft (1966); Benmore, Argyll, 69 × 41⁄2 ft (1956); Borde Hill, Sussex, pl. 1890, 69 × 43⁄4 ft (1957); Murthly Castle, Perths., 71 × 41⁄2 ft (1955).
specimens: Trees in England planted early this century are all dead or dying, but there are still healthy specimens in Scotland and Ireland: Dawyck, Peebl., 88 × 71⁄4 ft and 84 × 71⁄2 ft (1983); Hopetoun House, W. Lothian, 92 × 61⁄4 ft (1984); Benmore, Argyll, 88 × 53⁄4 ft (1983); Gosford Castle, E. Lothian, 82 × 8 ft (1976); Crarae, Argyll, 70 × 6 ft and 62 × 63⁄4 ft (1976); Dunkeld Cathedral, Perths., 75 × 73⁄4 ft and 85 × 51⁄2 ft (1981); Glentanar, Aberd., in Pinetum, pl. 1925, 79 × 71⁄4 ft (1980); Ardross Castle, Ross, pl. 1900, 68 × 71⁄4 ft (1980); Fairburn, Ross, 84 × 71⁄2 ft (1970).
† var. sikokiana (Nakai) Kusaka A. sikokiana Nakai – With a limited distribution in the south-western part of the main island of Japan, this variety differs from the typical state in having the leaves on the coning branchlets shorter, broadening towards the apex, smaller cones and differently shaped cone-scales (Liu, op. cit., p. 163 and pp. 180-81; Tor G. Nitzelius, Journ. R.H.S., Vol 100 (1975), pp. 202-5).
Abies veitchii was described by Bean (B169, S33) and Krüssmann (K45).
This variety has shorter leaves (0.5–2 cm) than typical (3 cm), and smaller cones (3–4 × 1.5–2 cm, vs. 6–8 cm). The cones are ellipsoidal, and only the cusps of the bracts are exserted. Farjon 1990. Distribution JAPAN: Shikoku. Habitat Subalpine forest, between 800 and 2000 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 7. Conservation status Lower Risk. While common locally, distribution restricted. Illustration Liu 1971; NT60.
Abies veitchii is a widely successful species and there seems to be no reason why var. sikokiana should not also thrive in many different conditions. It is not common in cultivation, but there are specimens in some of the major collections in Europe and North America. In May 2006 a slightly leaning tree of 10 m in the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was in fully fertile mode, bearing a lot of small pendulous female cones coloured reddish maroon, overcast with blue, while the male cones were simultaneously shedding their pollen. With the new light green shoots emerging, the tree looked very attractive in this state. At Wakehurst Place a tree of cultivated origin has grown to 8 m since accession in 1989. Its trunk bears many resin blisters, so numerous towards its base that it seems to be wearing wrinkled stockings. The short leaves are distinctly upward-pointing.