ROCKY MOUNTAIN WHITE FIR
Abies concolor (Gordon) Lindl. ex Hildebr.
Cone morphology, including cone color, in true firs is one characteristic that helps in identification most of the species. Cone color in many instances is also a main ornamental merit of these trees: for example, Korean Fir is a popular landscape plant for its small but attractive cones varying in shades of green, red-brown, blue, gray, and dark purple. Most Abies
species in Europe and adjacent areas have green cones, but some trees of the same (native) population have reddish-brown or almost dark red cones – coupled with a great deal of variation in the morphology of bracts. In addition, sometimes the upper margin of the outer surface of cone-scale is reddish-brown, while light reddish-green elsewhere. During a Dendrological Atlas project expedition to Turkey, back in 1980, our team has documented Abies equi-trojani
cones of all sizes and colors, with shades between green and almost red-brown. Similarly, Abies cilicica
can have green or red-brown cones.
Another type of variation, most commonly seen in Abies concolor, is that the tree has either green or purplish- or gray-blue cones. As reported from observations in the southern Rocky Mountains, the "purple-coned" (indeed, dark gray-blue or purple-blue coned) variant was found in greater proportions at colder habitats of higher elevations. A similar case is also present in other species of true firs, although not necessarily connected with ecological conditions. For example, the normally dark blue-purple coned Abies ernestii may sometimes be green-coned (see Conifers Around the World, page 292) shown by a photo received from northwestern Yunnan.
Cultivated specimens of Abies concolor are also varying, the plants having either green or blue cones; the blue-coned trees are apparently more frequent than the green-coned ones. Vegetative characters are basically the same in these forms. Plantings of the local forestry around the Budakeszi Herbarium, Hungary, contain several A. concolor trees, about the same age of 50 to 60 years, probably from the same seed bed, some with green and the others with blue cones. Cone color is fixed in such a way that the cones' ovuliferous stage already tells the cone color; the blue-coned form has red ovuliferous cones and of course the green ovuliferous cones will develop into green cones. Eventually, as the cones develop and reach maturity, these striking colors diminish; before disintegration the green cones become light green-gray, then light brown, while the blue cones turn into dark gray with some purplish tint. The color variation is also observed in other places in Central Europe. - The following images, except for the page reproduction from C.A.W., are from trees cultivated in Hungary. Reports of similar observations on firs or even other conifer species are welcome here (firstname.lastname@example.org)!