Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) is a small to medium evergreen tree Needles are short, blunt, and blue-green with white bands separated by a prominent raised green mid-rib beneath. Cones are long and purple with obvious pale green bracts. Very similar to Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and sometimes considered a subspecies, but the home range does not overlap, and Fraser fir has longer, more projecting bracts on cones. Native to a few of the highest slopes of the southern Appalachians in Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, the Fraser fir is rare and has been declining in the wild in mountaintop forests. Rarely cultivated as an ornamental, but commonly grown for commercial Christmas tree market. The tree is named for John Fraser (1750-1811), who discovered the tree and sent it to Lee’s nursery in Hammersmith, London in the early 1800s. Population in the wild has collapsed with the occurence of the pathogen balsam wooly adelgid.
MP #133, 136, 138 – 142, 145, 147, 148. Abies fraseri (Pursh) Poir.
Common name: Fraser Fir, Southern Balsam Fir; Southern Fir
Scientific Name (family and order): Abies fraseri (Pursh) Poir. (Pinaceae, Pinales)
Species Origin: Native to southeastern USA.
New Jersey Status: USDA Unreported
Habit: 30 -50’ high, bole 1 -2’ diameter. Pyramidal shape with horizontal stiff branches opening up with age. Branches are very resinous.
Habitat: Zone 4 – 7.
Trunk/Stem: Twigs reddish and hairy.
Leaves: Evergreen. Needles 1” long dark green above and two broad silvery white bands of 8 – 12 stomatic lines below. Needles grooved; tip blunt or notched. The needle is flat on cross section (like all firs). The needles curve upward off the stem. crushed needles have a turpentine odor.
Fruits and seeds: Ovoid or conical cones, 1 ½” – 3” long. Purplish cone scales obscured by papery, greenish to tan bracts which are bent downward over the cone scales. The exerted bracts are an important identification feature.