Friday, October 8, 2010

Abies bracteata - Santa Lucia Fir

Abies bracteata: Abies is the Latin name for silver fir; bracteata refers to the species' extraordinarily long cone scale bracts.

Also known as the Bristlecone Fir.

Narrowly conical, steeple-like crown, with short, slightly drooping branches near the top and wide-spreading branches at the base, often to the ground. Growth rate moderate, slower with age, to 70' tall (to 100' in habitat) and 15-20' wide.

Needles are stiff, flat, shiny dark green 2" long, twisted near the base, with sharply pointed tips and 2 whitish stripes on the undersides, sometimes occurring in flattened sprays on lower branches. Compare to Torreya californica. Twigs are glabrous, with long, narrow, sharply pointed, 1" long non-resinous buds.

Purplish brown cones are upright 3" long, with thin, broadly rounded, tightly clasped scales, each bract extendign into a 1/2 to 1-3/4" long yellowish brown, hairlike bristle, curving outward around the cone.

Cones are rarely seen, disintegrating when fully mature and releasing ovoid, reddish brown broad-winged seeds. Pictured above are cone scales with bracts and a spike to which cone scales were formerly attached.

Bark is smooth, thin, grayish brown, thickening and becoming scaly and slightly fissured, often with pitch oozing from cracks in the bark.

Evergreen. Native to the Santa Lucia mountains of Monterrey and San Luis Obispo counties of California. The Santa Lucia Fir occupies steep, rocky slopes above the cool, windswept, foggy coast, usually between 2,000 and 5,000 feet in mixed-evergreen forests at sites with annual rainfall in excess of 100 inches.

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