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Exotic Conifers: The Noble Fir

The Exotic Conifers blog series continues as we take a closer look at the Noble Fir, also known as Abies procera. Keeping in line with our previous installments, we will review the attributes, pros, and cons of this particular tree species.

However, before we can talk about the Noble Fir, we must first provide some background on exotic Firs. In the context of Christmas trees, the term “exotic” has come to mean “less common or unusual,” according to the MSU Extension. Several types of exotic Firs have been proven to better resist certain diseases and pests, and are hardier than the “tried-and-true” tree species (i.e. Balsam Fir, Douglas Fir, and Blue Spruce) when it comes to changing weather patterns. This makes exotic Firs ideal alternatives for Christmas tree growers faced with more unpredictable and extreme weather patterns.

Now, let’s dive into more about Noble Fir.

Attributes of Noble Fir

Noble Firs are tall, narrow evergreens classified as western North American Firs and are native to the mountains in Washington, western Oregon, and northwest California. They are what is referred to as “high-altitude” trees, meaning they typically occur at 300 -1,500 m (980–4,920 ft) altitude and rarely reach the tree line, according to the USDA. Mature Noble Firs found in nature can grow to 200 feet with a trunk diameter of 6 feet. Noble Firs are “pioneer trees” and can live up to 400 years, with a maximum of 600 to 700 years.

These trees have long, flat needles in a deep blue-green shade that are generally twisted upward, exposing the lower surface of branches. They produce cones between 6 and 9 inches long. The cones sit upward, instead of hanging down like other evergreen trees.

The bark on young Noble Firs is smooth and grey, but becomes red-brown in color and rough in texture as the tree ages. The wood of Noble Firs is soft and lightweight. And according to the USDA, it is the strongest wood of the true firs and is suitable for light construction and pulping. High-quality Noble Fir wood is used for moldings, sash and door stock, venetian blinds, and veneer. The wood of Noble Fir is also a specialty wood that’s used for ladder rails and airplane construction because of its high strength to weight ratio.

Nobles Firs are closely related to Red Fir (Abies magnifica). Both trees have similar looking needles and cones that grow upward, however Red Fir cones are larger than Noble Fir. Also, Red Fir cones mostly have shorter bracts, except in A. magnifica var. shastensis; this variety is considered by some botanists to be a hybrid between Noble Fir and Red Fir.

Pros and Cons

Noble Firs have long been considered excellent Christmas trees because of their beauty, soft needles, stiff branches, and longevity. This particular species of conifers is growing in popularity because it grows well in a variety of climates and soils.

These Firs root deeply, making them resistant to wind damage, but it’s best they are sheltered from the wind to last longer and look better. According to the USDA, they have high frost tolerance. These trees do best in cool climates and higher altitudes. They also grow reasonably well on steep slopes, but do best on gentle ones.

These conifers need to be sheared or trimmed once a year. If a second growth occurs, another trim may be needed prior to being cut for the season. A con is that they require a lot of maintenance to make sure there is a single, straight top. However, overall this species of conifer requires little care. It is recommended that they are given adequate water while the root systems develop – this tree does not typically need fertilizer to grow.

Generally, Noble Fir do not suffer from major losses from pests. If a pest problem does persist, the USDA says root-disease in Noble Fir can be linked back to the Noble Fir bark beetle (Pseudohylesinus nobilis).

Bark beetles are tiny insects with hard, cylindrical bodies that reproduce under the bark of trees. There are 600 different species of bark beetles in the United States, according to the U.S. Forest Service and most species of bark beetles live in dead, weakened, or dying hosts.

Another pest-related problem for Noble Fir is dwarf mistletoe, which are small, leafless, flowering parasitic plants that can cause severe damage to native conifers, according to the Colorado State Forest Service.

Dwarf mistletoe is a slow killer – the first symptom of infection is a slight swelling of the bark at the infection site. But the parasite is only identifiable 2-3 years after infection, when the yellow to green or brownish-green segmented shoots protrude from the infected part of the tree.

Consider Growing Noble Fir

If you’re looking to expand your conifer selection, consider growing Noble Fir. Exotic Firs like this one allows your business to provide customers a wider range of choices, and in some cases, lower maintenance and better resistance to pests.

If you’d like to grow Noble Fir in your business or if you have questions about it, feel free to send us an email at info@vanspinesnursery.com or give us a call at (800) 888-7337.

Looking for other ways to grow your business faster with exotic Firs? Check out the rest of our exotic Fir series by clicking the links below.

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Irrigation & Weed Control

Not sure which program to choose? If the amount of irrigation and weed control is a deciding factor, the chart below shows which programs require the most care to the least care.

Most Care

Least Care

Jiffy Plugs

(36mm & 50mm)

Husky

(Bare Root Transplants)

1 Year Container

(Peat Quart, Super Potted Gallon, Peat Gallon)

Jumbo Husky

(Bare Root Transplants)

2 Year Container

(Peat Quart, Super Potted Gallon, Peat Gallon)

3-4 year Container

(Super Potted 3 Gallon)

Irrigation & Weed Control

Not sure which program to choose? If the amount of irrigation and weed control is a deciding factor, the chart below shows which programs require the most care to the least care.

Most Care

Jiffy Plugs

(36mm & 50mm)

Husky

(Bare Root Transplants)

1 Year Container

(Peat Quart, Super Potted Gallon, Peat Gallon)

Jumbo Husky

(Bare Root Transplants)

2 Year Container

(Peat Quart, Super Potted Gallon, Peat Gallon)

3-4 year Container

(Super Potted 3 Gallon)

Least Care