In a few short weeks, trees, shrubs and other plants will be capturing our interest with early spring color. Perhaps you’ve already spotted early-flowering bulbs, like snowdrops or crocus, popping up here and there in protected sunny locations, as I did today. What a treat.
In the meantime, evergreen trees around us provide great late-winter interest and enjoyment. One such evergreen is White Fir (Abies concolor), also called Concolor Fir and Colorado White Fir.
White fir is common in forests out in the western U.S., but rarely grows wild here in New England. It is, however, commonly cultivated (grown for sale and planting) in our area, and has become a widely available and more popular choice of evergreens. White fir is also grown on tree farms to be sold as Christmas trees. It has a delightful citrusy fragrance, a handsome traditional shape, and although it takes a bit of maneuvering on placement of ornaments because of its longer needles, makes a gorgeous presentation at Christmas.
As a slow grower, White fir generally reaches 30 to 50 feet in height but can reach 100 feet or more. Needles are soft, pleasant to the touch, bluish or silvery green and about 2 inches long. Branches high in the tree tend to point upward while branches midway and lower on the tree tend to be horizontal or point downward. Unlike a lot of evergreens that lose their lower branches as they mature, White fir keeps its low branches and conical shape.
White fir produces cones, which grow upright, start out olive green, then become purplish and eventually brown. When cones are mature, they release seeds that are dispersed by wind. It may take 30 years or more for a White fir to produce cones.
Three young White fir specimens are thriving in the open space along Mystic Ave and Route 16, across from the intersection of Harvard St. The three White firs were planted along with over a dozen other trees in 2010 in a collaborative project between the City of Medford, MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and MA Department of Transportation (DOT), in an effort to add trees to beautify a highly commercial area of the city. If you are stopped at the traffic lights nearby, hope you take a moment to enjoy the view of the White firs in your travels.
– By Aggie Tuden, Medford Tree Warden