Syn.: Abies excelsa Link., Abies pectinata (Lam.) DC. in Lam. et DC, Abies picea (L.) Pers., Abies vulgaris Poiret, Pinus abies Du Roi, Pinus pectinata Lam., Pinus picea L.
Family: Pinaceae Lindl.
Distribution: Middle and South Europe. Area is rather small, divided into bigger and smaller islands. In the south grows silver fir from Pyrenees, over Corsica, South Italy and Macedonia to Bulgaria and Greece. Southernmost habitat is in the south of Italian peninsula in Calabria, westernmost in the east of Pyrenees – where forms forest boundary. Slightly less in the west – in the northwest France is a small isolated area with silver fir in a hilly country Normandy, another one is in the middle of France. More continuous distribution begins in western foothills of Alps in the eastern France and in the Jura Mountains, Vosges Mountains and Black Forest. Northern boundary of silver fir goes from northwestern Germany and Thuringian Forest, over the foothill of Ore Mountains and Giant Mountains, further over the Malopolska and Lublin Upland in Poland. Northern limit is near Warsaw and in Bialowieza Forest. Eastern border connects and continues into the East and South Carpathians. Silver fir is rarely substituted in Alps system and in Tatra Mountains.
In Czech Republic is the centre of habitation in lower mountain areas (min. gulch in Elbe Sandstone Mountains 140 meters above the sea level and max. in Boubín – former primeval forest, c. 1300 meters above the sea level). Silver fir grows scatteredly in all of border mountains except of Ždánice Forest. Silver fir you can’t find on the warm hilly countries and at the ravines of great rivers. In Ore Mountains, Jizera Mountains and other Sudetes is today only rare. Well known area with silver fir is “Mionší” in Moravian-Silesian Beskids.
Habitat: Silver fir is a woody species mainly from oceanic middle cold and wet climate with mild winters. Poland is the nearest to the continental climate. It grows in vertical interval between 140–2100 meters above the sea level. Lowest point is in the gulch of Elbe Sandstone Mountains, highest point is in the Pyrenees. Severe winters and dry hot summers are not acceptable for this tree. It is also late frost sensitive.
It is shady woody species. Silver fir is mostly tolerance tree to the shading after a yew-tree. Underwood can vegetates in strong shadow even 120 year, sometimes is 1–2 meters tall. It has high requirements for air moisture. Minimal precipitation vary between 500–1000 mm, optimal precipitation are between 1000–2500 mm. Precipitation need increases from north to the south. Exception to this is relatively xerophilic relict inalpine ecotype from Wallis canton (southwest Switzerland). This area has very low precipitation between 400–550 mm per year – from that is during summer only about 270 mm.
It grows mainly from the deeper middle nutritive over richer freshly wet to underflooded soils, rarely also on peaty to stony soils. In some areas is its optimal location also limestone rocks (West Alps, Jura). In lower locations grows rather in colder and wetter basins and folds, in the north border of this area also on alluvial plain. It keeps a good quality of soil with its needle defoliation that is quickly decomposed to the slightly acid humus.
Together with european beech and Norway spruce forms so-called Hercynian mixture. Mixture of beech and fir was most usual structure of nature vegetation in middle and mountain locations in Czech Republic, higher it was then the mixture of spruce and fir. In canyons and on debris was developing mixtures of firs for example with maples, in warmer locations also with hornbeam, in the poorer locations with scotch pine. As the secondary woody species are here also limes, sessile oaks, rowans or hazel. Silver fir is accompanying mountain pine on the upper boundary of Pyrenees. It belongs between the most productive European woody species.
Description: Silver fir is a large evergreen coniferous tree with full-boled trunk, conical to cylindrical and very shapely treetop. In a great age get the side branches beyond the terminal what forms on the treetop “stork nest”. It grows to 30–60 m tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 1–2 m. Root is ball-shaped to heart-shaped with deep going pseudopodical fixative roots. Bark with resin canals is smooth, white-grey, later lengthwise fissured and grey. Wood is yellowish white with sharply limited annual rings without resin canals. Current year shoot are smooth, brown with remarkable dark hairs. Buds are egg-shaped, brown without resin. Needles are double-rowed aligned and covers shoot on generative branches. Needles are 18–30 mm long and 2 mm wide, flat, glossy dark green and slightly notched above, and with two greenish-white bands below, on the tip are usually slightly cutted out, on the generative branches are needles rounded to pointed.
Male strobiles are 2 cm long and 0,6 cm wide, green-yellow, mostly placed from middle part to bottom at the edge of the treetop, underneath last year’s shoot. Female strobiles are 2,5–4,5 cm long and 1–1,5 cm wide, green-yellow to red, at the top of the last year´s shoot at the treetop. Cones are erect, disintegrated, 10–18 cm long and 3–5 cm wide, during maturing are greenish to bluish , after maturing are brown. Supporting scales extrudes from the cone, mostly are rolled up and pressed. Seed is 7–10 mm long, three-squared, glossy brown, wing is wide, asymmetric. Flowers from April to May, cones matured in the first year during the September. It is a long-lived tree, with ages of 300–600 years.
Endangering and Protection: In last 200 years was fading away and receded. Along the reconstruction could have been the nature distribution about 18 %, presently is it unfortunately only 0, 9 % in the forest. Dying back is connected especially with human activity – with the coming of clear felling, short time of regeneration. Among other causes belongs also its delicacy against sudden changing of location, air pollution, global warming, climatic extremes, dewatering of landscape, dewatering of vegetation, insectual calamity, fungal diseases, overpreservation of animals, but also phylogenetic and genetic causes. On the basis of these reasons is silver fir registered in term of endangering as more rare species requiring next attention.
Records of this species: Probably the tallest living European tree is 65 m tall silver fir growing in primaeval forest “Peručica” in national park “Sutjeska” in Bosnia near the border with Montenegro. Legendary silver fir 68 m tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 3,8 m grew in german Black Forest. Reputedly had cubage 140 m³ In the Bohemian Forest was famous Prince Josephs Silver Fir located near the city „Vyšší Brod“ that was 50 m tall with a trunk diameter of up to 2,07 m and estimated cubage 65,3 m³. This one died after the year 1839. Rough Fir (Hrubá jedľa) from Dobročsky primaeval forest in Slovak Ore Mountains had cubage 47,3 m³.
Using: The wood has similar technical characteristics as the pine-wood, is less glossy and worse for planning, easy grayish. More often than for wood-production was used as the building wood, especially as mining timber. The reason was following – before the breaking of firry pit prop under the pressure makes this material loud noise and through this warns of break down. Further was the wood used for water construction (under the water is more durable), production of musical instruments and shingles. From bark was extract terebinth. Silver fir is not very useful for plantation. Valued are firry Christmas trees and decorative foliage.
Photos: 16. 9. 2006 (Czechia, forest garden Kostelec nad Černými Lesy), 24. 9. 2006 (Czechia, forest garden Sněžná), 20. 7. 2006 (Slovakia, surroundings of Tatras Hollow) and 16. 8. 2005 (Bosnia, foothills of Dinaric Alps).
Translation: Lucie Hodačová