Tree to 15 m. Crown broad-conical to pyramidal. Branchlets grey, somewhat pubescent at first. Vegetative buds ovoid, slightly resinous. Foliar characters entirely intermediate between the parents; leaves 2–3 cm long with chalk-white stomatal bands beneath often obscuring the midrib, like in A. veitchii, but very broad, 2.5 mm across, somewhat radially arranged above the shoot and not swept forwards, like in A. koreana. Seed cones cylindrical, 5–6 × 2–2.5 cm, purplish-blue when young, maturing to violet-brown or grey-yellow-brown, bracts slightly exserted, or conspicuously exserted and reflexed. (Krüssmann 1985).
USDA Hardiness Zone 5
RHS Hardiness Rating H7
Named from material raised at Gothenburg Botanic Garden, Sweden, in 1953, from seed sent from the Arnold Arboretum. The seed had been gathered from an original Wilson plant of A. koreana, raised from Jeju Island seed, but as the resulting plants grew at Gothenburg it soon became clear they were of hybrid origin. Tor Nitzelius, former curator at Gothenburg, published the new hybrid name in 1970 (Aldén 2006).
The same cross has also been made in controlled conditions and intermediate forms can occur wherever the two parents are grown together. Resulting trees are entirely intermediate between their parents ‘and equally garden worthy’ (Rushforth 1987). Trees seem rarely to be correctly labelled unless they are a named cultivar; they are usually mislabelled as one of the parents, most often A. koreana (pers. obs.) as is the case with a tree of 9 m × 0.22 m dbh (in 2015) growing in Haldon Grange Gardens, Devon, UK (Tree Register 2020). Tor Nitzelius selected two cultivars from the original batch at Gothenburg, ‘Graciosa’ and ‘Violet’, these have now been joined by many more, some of which are excellent garden plants (Auders & Spicer 2012).
In August 2020 a small stand of trees, raised from the original seed batch, was still growing in the landscape arboretum at Gothenburg Botanic Garden (pers. obs.). Planted in 1958, in 2005 the largst example was 13 m × 0.27 m dbh (Aldén 2006).
One of two cultivars selected from the original 1953 batch at the Gothenburg Botanic Garden, Sweden, Abies × arnoldiana ‘Graciosa’ is characterised by ‘grey-yellow-brown cones with the bract-scales exserted and reflexed’ (Auders & Spicer 2012).
Synonyms / alternative names
Abies × arnoldiana 'John Paul II'
Selected at the Rogów Arboretum in Poland and named for Pope John Paul II, this forms an upright, narrowly conical tree to 3 × 1 m in ten years, with light green leaves (Auders & Spicer 2012).
Raised in Poland, this obscure cultivar is notable among A. × arnoldiana selections for its glaucous leaves, and its vigorous, upright conical habit. To 3 × 0.8 m in ten years (Auders & Spicer 2012).
A superb, low-growing, wide-spreading plant raised at the D.T. Poulsen nursery, Denmark, in 1983. In ten years this selection can grow to 0.3 × 1.2 m, and from a young age will produce spectacular cones in various shades of violet and purple (Auders & Spicer 2012). With age it forms a most handsome subject ideally suited to a rock garden, but would be worth deploying in just about any circumstance where a low, reliable evergreen is desired.
Similar to ‘Jan Paweł II’, but with leaves darker green, and more vigorous, to 4 × 1 m in ten years. This too was raised at the eponymous arboretum in Poland, prior to 1999 (Auders & Spicer 2012).
The second cultivar selected from the original batch at Gothenburg, Abies × arnoldiana ‘Violet’ has violet-brown cones with the bracts only partially exserted (Auders & Spicer 2012).