Abies lasiocarpa : Subalpine Fir


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Coniferae (cone bearing)

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Genera: Abies (Fir Trees) (Latin name for Fir trees)

Species: lasiocarpa (Gk. lasi=shaggy + karpos=fruit)

Synonym(s): A balsamea var.fallax

English Name(s):

Subalpine Fir, Alpine Fir, Sweet Pine, Rocky Mountain Fir

First Nation Names:



  • Bark grey, smooth and covered with blisters full of resin.
  • Ussually a small tree sometimes becoming shrublike at tree line.


  • Arising singly (rather than in pairs or tufts).
  • Needle like, 5-25mm long often curved upward.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Cones disintigrate when mature leaving the central axis sticking up erect from the branch.
  • Cones erect, 6-10cm long and 25-35mm diameter.


  • Seeds are known to be dispersed up to 7km by wind.

Not to Be Confused With:

  • A. lasiocarpa (Subalpine Fir) could be mistaken for Picea (Spruce) species. But can be distingished by its erect cones. Picea cones are downward pointing.
  • If no cones are present, the resin blisters on the bark and the rich smell will distinguish A.lasiocarpa from anything else in our area.



  • At treeline most will reproduce by layering (a form of vegitative reproduction).

Life Cycle:

Seasonal Cycle:

  • Cones maturing in 1 season.
  • Evergreen


Animal Uses:

  • Rodents harvest the seeds for food. Many rodents will then bury the seeds. The ones that go uneaten may germinate. It is thought that this is an important factor in A.lasiocarpa reproduction.


  • Growing to treeline with scattered individuals in tundra/alpine above treeline.
  • Mountain slopes ussually on acid rock.




  • Resin can be used as a source of turpintine, can also be mixed with paint to make it smell better.
  • Subalpine Fir trees make excellent Christmass Trees.
  • Wood is too soft and perishable for quality lumber, but is used for crates, boxes and paper pulp.
  • Is the official tree of Yukon.


  • Caution: The resin of Subalpine Fir can cause skin irritation in some people.


  • Seeds are edible, are rich in oil but are small and hard to collect.

Traditional Gwich'in:





          Traditional Other:


          • A branch put across the enterance of your grain storage will keep away evil spirits who want to steal your grain.
          • A stick of Fir not fully burned will ward off lightning.
          • An Austrian legend tells of a fairy maiden, waited on by dwarfs, who sits in a stately Fir and works to reward the innocent and plague the guilty.
          • Christians considered it a sacred tree as it was cut for the ceiling of the Temple of Jerusalem.
          • If you lay a branch at the foot of your bead you will not have nightmares.
          • If you use a Fir tree as your Christmass tree you can learn of your fate, by burning it after Christmas and if the shadow has no head you will die within the year.
          • In northern lands, Fir was thought to be the King of the forest and home of the wood genius. Some wood cutters would not even cut it down.
          • It was believed that Imps could be concealed in its branches.
          • It was thought that if a Fir tree was struck or burned by lightning, a man or woman who lives nearby would die.


          • Needles were burned as incense or insect repellent.
          • Resin has been used as an adhesive for microscope slides and optical lenses.


          • Gum was chewed to clean the teeth.
          • Resin was mixed with bear grease to make a fragrant ointment for hair.
          • Resin was taken internally to increase urine flow, increase persperation, and as a stimulant.
          • Resin was used externally as a skin stimulant, and as a salve for cuts, sores, and burns.
          • Root pieces held in the mouth for mouth sores.
          • The inner-bark was used to make an infusion for colds, skin problems, sores, swelling, and chest pains.



            Tree with no cones in alpine setting.

            Typical needles.

            One erect cone.

            Resin blisters in grey bark

            Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

            Range Maps

            World Range: North American cordilleran; From NM and AZ to 64.5N degrees YT and AK.

            Prov/State Abrev. List

            In Yukon: To about 64.5 degrees North.

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