Korean fir - Abies koreana
Pinaceae (Pine family)
to 8 M in the Hørsholm Arboretum
The cones from Abies koreana in the upper two pictures show the more common colour combinations in our collection while those in the lower two pictures show more unusual colours. Each picture is from a different tree. These trees, as well as many others, are found in the Frihedslyst area of the arboretum in squares 1601 to 1802.
Even a medium sized arboretum like ours can display a few species in large numbers, allowing one to observe and understand the natural variation that can occur within a species. In the case of this months plant we have over 100 specimens. Right now it is a very good time to observe and enjoy the variation in cone colour that is exhibited by our wild-collected Abies koreana. The most common colours are blue or blue-grey cones with green or purple exserted bracts. However, cones also occur where the bracts are hidden, where both the seed scales and the bracts are green, and where both the seed scales and bracts are grey-black. Such colour variations can lead to speculations about how the colours are controlled and why different colours occur.
The genus Abies has a natural range in much of the northern hemisphere south to Morocco in Africa, south to Vietnam and Taiwan in Asia and south to Honduras in North America. True firs (Abies species) occur in two main ecological zones. Most, like Abies koreana, occur as pure forest stands in boreal or subalpine zones. A few occur in the warm temperate zone as groves or scattered trees in association with oaks. The genus Abies is thought to have 48 species, 7 subspecies and 24 varieties plus one nothospecies (hybrid species). We have 33 species of Abies growing at Hørsholm and 114 specimens of this months plant, Abies koreana.
Abies koreana is reported to have been introduced to France in 1908 after being discovered in 1907 on Mt Halla on the volcanic island of Cheju, South Korea. However, it was not officially named until 1920. Abies koreana was first introduced to Denmark by the nurseryman Aksel Olsen by way of the French nursery, Vilmorin, in 1928. Most Abies koreana in our collection are from the Nordic Arboretum Committees Expedition to Korea in 1976. Our oldest specimen, from 1944, is a grafted plant from the D.T. Poulsen Nursery in Denmark. It creates a sprawling ground cover only 0.5 m high but 6 m broad. Even though heavily shaded it still produces a few blue cones with hidden bracts every year.
Abies koreana is a slow growing, cone shaped, compact evergreen conifer. A number of named horticultural forms or varieties exist. The round buds are covered with a thick encrustation of whitish resin. The short needles are wider near the tip, usually notched (sometimes pointed on vigorous shoots), and green above but bright white beneath. They tend to be radially arranged around the shoot. Clusters of clear-yellow male flowers open in early May. The female flowers occur on the upper side of the shoots and vary in colour from yellow-green to light-red or purple. Heavy cone set occurs even on small individuals. This later trait, as well as the colour of the immature cones, adds much to their horticultural usefulness.
This is one of three Abies species that were included in the book Plants that merit attention. Abies koreana is an excellent, distinctive, conifer for the garden. In general it grows more slowly than other true firs. Our fastest growing specimens have reached nearly 8 m in height after 27 years, but most grow more slowly. A few are only 2 m tall after 27 years.
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