Abies grandis – Grand fir

Abies grandis is a tall, straight tree with short, dense branches. which grows in coniferous forests from sea level to mid-elevations.

At a Glance

  • Family: Pinaceae
  • Plant type: Coniferous tree.
  • Distribution: This tree grows from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to California, and east to Idaho and Montana, growing on both sides of the Cascades crest and at the coast in Washington.
  • Height: This tree grows up to 295 feet (90 m) in height.
  • Stems: The bark is grayish-brown in color and is initially smooth with resin blisters becoming rough and scaly with age.
  • Leaves: The needles have a similar smell to tangerines and are spread apart horizontally so that both the upper and lower sides of the branch are clearly visible. Needles lie perfectly flat on twigs, like teeth on a comb. They are 0.8 to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) in width with a blunt tip. The needles are dark green in color with two white stripes on the underside.
  • Cones: The cones are positioned high in the crown of the tree and disintegrate before falling to the ground. The cones are cylindrical in shape, 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) in length and up to 1.5 inches (4 cm) in diameter, yellow in color when mature and greenish prior to maturity. The cones are produced in May and June.
  • Notable Feature: The common name ‘Grand’ refers to the large, robust cones.

Restoration and Conservation

  • Birds: Grouse, nuthatches, chickadees, grosbeaks, finches, crossbills feed on the fir seeds. Sapsuckers and woodpeckers feed on the foliage. This tree also provides shelter for many birds.
  • Insects: Pine white butterfly larvae eat the leaves.
  • Mammals: This tree provides shelter for many mammals such as squirrels, porcupines, and deer.

Ethnobotany

  • Material Uses: The Kwakwaka’wakw shamans wove grand fir branches into head-dresses and costumes. The Hesquiat used the branches for incense and decorative clothing for wolf dancers. The Okanagan used the wood and bark to build canoes. The Salish used the bark to make a brown dye to apply to baskets. The knots in the wood were shaped, steamed, and carved into fish hooks by the Ditidaht, Salish, and other coastal groups. Pitch made from the bark’s resin has been applied to bows and paddles to secure grip.
  • Medicinal Uses: The bark has been mixed with nettles to create a tonic and decoration for bathing. The Lushootseed have boiled its needles to make medicinal tea for colds. The Hesquiat mixed the pitch of young grand fir trees with oil and rubbed it on the scalp as a deodorant and to prevent balding. The bark has been mixed with other barks to make an infusion that was drank to cure internal injuries.

References

  • Brockman, F.C. 1968. A Guide to Field Identification: Trees of North America. Western Publishing Company.
  • Gunther, E. 1973. 2nd ed. Ethnobotany of Western Washington. University of Washington Press. Page 19.
  • Jacobson A.L. 2001. Wild Plants of Greater Seattle. Published by author. Page 60.
  • Kruckeberg, A.R. 1996. 2nd ed. Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press. Page 28.
  • Link, R. 1999. Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press. Page 240.
  • Lyons, C., W. Merilees. Trees and Shrubs to Know in Washington and British Columbia. Lone Pine Publishing. Page 73.
  • Pojar, J., A. Mackinnon. 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing. Page 34.
  • Starflower Foundation Image Herbarium and Landscaping Pages, 2007.
  • Turner, N.AJ. 1975. Food Plants of British Columbia Indians: part 1, Coastal Peoples. British Columbia Provincial Museum. Page 79
  • WTU Image Herbarium: https://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection/taxon.php?Taxon=Abies%20grandis

Page Editors/Authors

This article was written by Mayme O’Toole and Gerald B. Stanley.   For questions regarding the EERC Native Plant Guided Tour, contact Sarah Verlinde-Azofeifa at severlin@uw.edu.