Fir, lord of the mountains

When we talk about food, we don’t mean only the Christmas tree, and above all we don’t talk about a specific species, but about a genus that includes about 48 different species. Fir is part of the conifer family; their fruits (pine cones), as the word itself suggests, have a conical shape. Evergreens grow completely spontaneously, but they need low temperatures and high altitudes, which is why they are often found in the Alps and Apennines in Italy.

Characteristics of fir

Fir is a tree with needle-like leaves with a ridge-like arrangement and changes color depending on exposure to the sun. Fir fruits are strobili, better known as cones, woody cone-shaped balls that contain a resin, often used to make oils. The tree can have male seeds (cones) as well as female, but production is relatively late (from 40 years) and easy to plant. Fir wood is also very valuable, known for its lightness, which makes it distinctive and often in demand both in the construction industry and as a decoration not only during the Christmas holidays. It is a plant that grows spontaneously in nature, in an environment with favorable characteristics: high altitude, between 500 and 2000 meters above sea level, cold, humid and rainy areas. The fir can reach a height of up to 50 meters and live up to 600 years: its name may be derived from these two connotations, the Greek abios (long-lived) or the Latin verb abire (to leave). its dimensions that point upwards.

Types of fir

The existing varieties of fir vary, because it is a genus that includes different specimens. A macro-difference that helps to classify tree species is between firs and spruces, which are abundant in the Italian territory. White fir (abies alba) can be over 600 years old; it has both male and female flowers and lives well between 500 and 2000 meters above sea level. Due to its conditions, it needs a lot of moisture, it prefers fresh soil and shady places, although as an “adult” it needs to be exposed to light. Spruce instead owes its name to the reddish color of its thin bark, which turns grayish with age. Shorter than the white, it reaches 40 meters and a relatively narrow canopy, the shape of which can vary depending on the weight of the snow or the height of the altitude. Spruce and white fir are species that can be very easily distinguished from each other by very different characteristics.

• Branches: white fir branches are arranged perpendicular to the trunk, red fir branches tend to point upwards
• Needles: spruce needles are green and grow around the twigs, while those of the white spruce have a dark green upper side and a lighter underside with parts towards white: this characteristic gives the plant species its name.
• Cones: the spruce has them suspended under the branches and therefore they tend to fall off completely; spruce cones, on the other hand, point upwards because they grow on the upper side of the branch and tend to break, so you rarely find them on the ground.
• Bark: red fir has a brittle bark that tends to peel and change color over the years: unlike white fir, it is more robust and remains smoother over time.

Below are other fir species present in the world:
• Silver fir: also known as picea pungens or Colorado fir, it gets its name from the color of its needles, which are between green and gray with blue tints that give the leaves a silvery appearance. It occurs mainly in North America or as a decorative plant.
• Oriental fir: or picea orientalis, is a coniferous plant with short, shiny needles; sometimes their tips may have shades of gold. Cones are long and narrow.
• Caucasian fir: also called Norman (Norman fir), it is a rustic tree with an intense green color with long brown conical cones; the stem has a columnar structure.
• Douglas fir: also called sweet fir or Douglas fir, it is an ornamental plant native to Canada and North America. Due to its rapid growth, it is used to obtain wood that is robust but very light and light.

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