Abies gamblei - Gamble Fir

  • Posted on: 10 August 2017
If one goes on the web to search for information on the plant under the name Abies gamblei, very little descriptive account will be found. And, interestingly enough, there will be some small-scale photos actually showing Abies pseudochensiensis!
As discussed in Conifers Around the World (see pages 1013 to 1015, as well as the species descriptions on p. 300 and 306) the two plants are different enough not to confuse them. It is also clear today that the plant described as Abies pindrow var. brevifolia (by Dallimore and Jackson in 1923), and recently treated as Abies pindrow subsp. gamblei by Rushforth (1999) cannot be placed under Abies pindrow – it is a different entity.
It was Robert Hickel who described Abies gamblei as a distinct species (with the type specimen deposited in the Paris Herbarium) and time confirmed his assumption. This latter species appears under various names in local literature, most notably as Abies spectabilis (in error) and sometimes as Abies webbiana (also erroneously). Some local references call this plant as "High Level Himalayan Fir" with the upper altitudinal limit as 3700 m.
Though Abies spectabilis may occur at such altitudes (exemplified by a few trees in the upper Langtang Valley in Nepal) those places belong to the wetter parts of the Himalayas. Abies gamblei however grows in the drier parts of the Himalayas, from western Nepal westward to eastern Afghanistan. In this rather extensive area, it separates from Abies pindrow at altitudes around 3000 m, with the latter always at lower elevations while Abies gamblei appearing around 3000 m and reaching 3500 m.There are no transitional forms between the two. Their morphological differences are rather obvious, as shown in the species plates here.
The landscape photo was taken on Mt. Churdhar (Himachal State, India) at around 3200 m, where Abies gamblei occurs in large stands mainly associated with Quercus semecarpifolia.
For more details turn to Conifers Around the World. Also, a more detailed study of the above mentioned species is underway.