Those who live and garden in cold regions often feel they miss out on beautiful plants – and sometimes they do. On the other hand, they can grow some beautiful trees that will not grow well in warmer areas, including many majestic conifers that need cool conditions to thrive. The Concolor White Fir is one of these – an outstanding tree that will grow in the coldest parts of the country magnificently, but does poorly anywhere warmer than zone 7. This still means that a large number of American gardeners can grow this marvelous tree, with its beautiful spire-like narrow form, perfectly symmetrical horizontal branching, and dense, blue-green needles. Older trees are decorated with large, upright purple cones in winter, like natural Christmas decorations.
Growing Colorado Concolor White Fir Trees
The Colorado White Fir is a relatively slender, conical tree with a strong central stem, clothed in branches coming off the trunk like spokes from a wheel. These branches grow horizontally when young, and in time the older, lower branches begin to lean downwards, creating a dramatic appearance to the tree. The needles are 2 ½ inches long, flattened, and a pale shade of blue-green. They radiate from the branches in two main groups from either side, with the lower needles curving upwards. This is different from spruce trees, where the needles are uniform in all directions around the stems.
The needles of this tree are the same color on both sides, which is unusual in needle trees, where one side is usually darker. This difference is where the tree gets it botanical name, since ‘concolor’ means ‘same color’. The cones are large, 4 to 6 inches long, and fat, like a barrel. They stand upright on the stems, and begin a greenish-yellow color, turning brown in time and eventually becoming a dramatic purple color. They really stand out when the branches are dusted with snow. The bark of this tree is gray, and thin and smooth on young trees. As the trees age the bark becomes thicker, and develops deep fissures and cracks, which show yellow cork in the lower parts.
Uses on Your Property
The Concolor White Fir is a remarkable specimen tree, perfect for placing on a large lawn, or in the corners of your property. It can be planted on slopes or level ground, and it can also be used as a row, for wind-breaks, privacy screens or boundary markers. Younger trees make fantastic Christmas trees, and they can of course be decorated with lights. The purple cones themselves also add to the festive appearance of this tree.
Plant the Colorado White Fir in rich soil that is well drained. Sandy or gravelly soils are excellent for this tree, which develops a deep root system. Slightly acidic soils are best, and although moist soils are best, established trees have some drought tolerance. It does not grow well in heavy clay. It grows well in areas with long winters, and it is hardy to minus 40 degrees with no problems at all. It does not enjoy hot, humid summers, and so it is not suitable for areas warmer than zone 7. It grows very well in the mid-west, and does better in rural and suburban locations than in the center of cities.
History and Origins of the Colorado Concolor White Fir
The Colorado White Fir (Abies concolor) grows naturally on mountain slopes, in higher areas between 3,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level. It can be found in the mountains of the western USA, in the southern Cascades and Sierra Mountains, from Oregon to southern California. It also grows in the Rocky Mountains from southern Idaho to Arizona and on into New Mexico. It is closely related to another native fir tree, the Grand Fir (Abies grandis).
The timber is used for construction. It does not split or twist, it is light in weight, and it holds nails well. It was first discovered for science by the explorer William Lobb around 1850, as part of his exploration of California. Our trees are grown from seed taken from the finest specimens of this magnificent tree, and carefully grown in a nursery environment, in containers for their whole life. These trees are far superior to ones grown in open fields, which are roughly dug and potted, and then sold cheaply. Such trees do not transplant well, and will often develop poorly and eventually die.