On our first visit to the homeland of Abies equi-trojani (in the autumn of 1980) we were accompanied by local forestry colleagues to the site where people were busy with seed harvest – collecting cones of the fir. Luckily enough, when we stopped at one place near the mixed stands of fir, beech and black pine, we met workers who had a cart full of freshly gathered cones!
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The story of the discovery, natural history and taxonomy of this remarkable plant has been described many ways, many times; one of the latest is an article and two associated reports in a 2009 issue of Arnoldia published by the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. (By typing in the key words 'Arnoldia' and 'Cathaya', the article readily comes up on the web).
This fir usually has small (less than 6 cm long) but very attractive cones with the dark blue-gray cone having relatively large, long-exserted, broad-winged, showy bracts. This example is from Benmore Botanic Garden, R.B.G. Edinburgh.
Pilgrimage to the cedars of Lebanon October 2010
For many years I wished to see the cedars of Lebanon… In my garden in Tokaj, Hungary, I have a very nice grove of Lebanon cedars now over 20 years old, grown from seed received from Turkey.
As observed in cultivation, this fir has cones greatly variable in color – from green to purplish- or blue-gray. The length and color of the bracts are also variable. Most commonly the cones are dark gray with some level of bluish tint as shown in this specimen photographed in the arboretum of the Polish Institute of Dendrology (Kórnik).
Wild populations of this well-known cypress are not commonly seen. One has to travel to Crete or a few other Aegean islands, or certain places in Turkey, to mention some better known locations. When we were on our 2010 trip to Turkey and made a brief detour to enter Dilek Peninsula, we did not expect to see it.
Despite its name, most populations of this distinctive juniper are found in southern Asia Minor (Turkey) and only smaller stands or scattered individuals in Lebanon and Syria. One outlying population is also present in Europe – on southern (mainland) Greece, very briefly discussed below.