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Edible uses


Inner bark - cooked. It is dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread[1][2].

Inner bark

Material uses

An oleo-resin is obtained from blister-like swellings in the bark[3][4]. It is harvested in the summer and used fresh, dried or distilled for oil[5]. The resin extracted from it is used in perfumery, medicine and for caulking ships[6][7][3][4]. It is called 'Strasburg Turpentine'[6]. Oil of turpentine is an important solvent in the paint industry[5]. The residue, known as 'rosin oil', is used in making varnishes, lacquers and carbon black (for pigments and ink)[5]. Resin is tapped from trees about 60 - 80 years old in the spring and used for the distillation of oil[5].

An essential oil obtained from the leaves is used as a disinfectant and also in medicine and perfumery[6][7]. It is a common ingredient in many bath products, giving them their familiar pine scent[8]. The bark is a source of tannin[8].

Wood - light, soft, durable, elastic. The timber of this tree is especially sought after for its lightness, it is used for construction, furniture, boxes, pulp etc[8][6][7][9][10].

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

The buds are antibiotic, antiseptic and balsamic[8].

The bark is antiseptic and astringent[8]. It can be harvested as required throughout the year[5]. The leaves are expectorant and a bronchial sedative[8]. They are best harvested in the spring and can be dried for later use[5]. The resin is antiseptic, balsamic, diuretic, eupeptic, expectorant, vasoconstrictor and vulnerary[8]. Both the leaves and the resin are common ingredients in remedies for colds and coughs, either taken internally or used as an inhalant[5]. The leaves and/or the resin are used in folk medicine to treat bronchitis, cystitis, leucorrhoea, ulcers and flatulent colic[11]. The resin is also used externally in bath extracts, rubbing oils etc for treating rheumatic pains and neuralgia[5].

Oil of Turpentine, which is obtained from the trunk of the tree, is occasionally used instead of the leaves or the resin. The oil is also rubefacient and can be applied externally in the treatment of neuralgia[11].


Ecosystem niche/layer


Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - sow early February in a greenhouse or outdoors in March[12]. Germination is often poor, usually taking about 6 - 8 weeks[12]. Stratification is said to produce a more even germination so it is probably best to sow the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn[13][14]. The seed remains viable for up to 5 years if it is well stored[14]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on for at least their first winter in pots. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Alternatively, if you have sufficient seed, it is possible to sow in an outdoor seedbed. One report says that it is best to grow the seedlings on in the shade at a density of about 550 plants per square metre[12] whilst another report says that they are best grown on in a sunny position[13].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Abies alba. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Prefers a good moist but not water-logged soil[15] though it tolerates most soils except infertile sands and peats[16][17]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a slightly acid soil, with a pH down to about 5, and a north-facing slope[18]. Plants are very shade tolerant and this species has often been used to underplant in forests[16][17], but growth is slower in dense shade[17]. Intolerant of atmospheric pollution[15]. Requires a generous rainfall and a sheltered position[16][17]. Intolerant of windy sites[17].

The silver fir is a very hardy plant when dormant but it comes into growth in April and is then susceptible to damage by late frosts and aphis[19][5]. This species is particularly subject to aphis infestation in many parts of the country[16], and is also prone to dieback and rust caused by fungal infections[5]. Trees are slow growing for the first few years but from the age of around 6 years growth accelerates and height increases of 1 metre a year are not uncommon[19]. Grows best in moist valleys in Scotland[16] and in S.W. England where it often self-sows. This species also thrives in E. Anglia[20]. Another report says that this species is not happy in the hot, dry, Lower Thames Valley, and does not thrive in many low-lying and frosty parts of southern England[16]. It has been planted as a timber tree in northern and western Europe[21]. It is also commonly used as a 'Christmas tree'[7][18]. This tree is notably resistant to honey fungus[16][17][18]. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, preferably between 30 and 90cm in height. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance[18]. Unlike most species of conifers, this tree can be coppiced and will regenerate from the stump[22]. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly[18]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[18].

The cultivar 'Pendula' used to be widely planted for ornament, shelter and timber but because it is now susceptible to damage by Adelges nordmannianae it is seldom planted. Research is going on (1975) to find provenances that are resistant[19].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Abies alba. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Abies alba.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Abies alba
Imported References
Edible uses
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
permanent shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    45 x 15
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type

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    1. ? 1.01.1 Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (32202/01/01)
    2. ? 2.02.1 Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3874292169 (32202/01/01)
    3. ? Howes. F. N. Vegetable Gums and Resins. Faber ()
    4. ? Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide. Oxford University Press ISBN 0192176218 (32202/01/01)
    5. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (32202/01/01)
    6. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (32202/01/01)
    7. ? Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (32202/01/01)
    8. ? Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (32202/01/01)
    9. ? 9.09.1 Polunin. O. and Huxley. A. Flowers of the Mediterranean. Hogarth Press ISBN 0-7012-0784-1 (32202/01/01)
    10. ? 10.010.1 Turner. N. J. and Szczawinski. A. Edible Wild Fruits and Nuts of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences (32202/01/01)
    11. ? Stuart. M. (Editor) The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism Orbis Publishing. London. ISBN 0-85613-067-2 (32202/01/01)
    12. ? Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co (32202/01/01)
    13. ? 13.013.1 McMillan-Browse. P. Hardy Woody Plants from Seed. Grower Books ISBN 0-901361-21-6 (32202/01/01)
    14. ? 14.014.1 Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (32202/01/01)
    15. ? 15.015.1 F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (32202/01/01)
    16. ? Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (32202/01/01)
    17. ? Rushforth. K. Conifers. Christopher Helm ISBN 0-7470-2801-X (32202/01/01)
    18. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (32202/01/01)
    19. ? Mitchell. A. F. Conifers in the British Isles. HMSO ISBN 0-11-710012-9 (32202/01/01)
    20. ? Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (32202/01/01)
    21. ? 21.021.1 ? Flora Europaea Cambridge University Press (32202/01/01)
    22. ? ? The Plantsman. Vol. 6. 1984 - 1985. Royal Horticultural Society (32202/01/01)

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    Facts about "Abies alba"RDF feed
    Article is incompleteNo +
    Article requires citationsNo +
    Article requires cleanupNo +
    Belongs to familyPinaceae +
    Belongs to genusAbies +
    Has common nameSilver Fir +
    Has drought toleranceIntolerant +
    Has edible partInner bark +
    Has edible useUnknown use +
    Has flowers of typeMonoecious +
    Has growth rateVigorous +
    Has hardiness zone4 +
    Has imageAbies alba - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-001.jpg +
    Has lifecycle typePerennial +
    Has material partUnknown part +
    Has material useEssential +, Lacquer +, Paint +, Resin +, Tannin + and Wood +
    Has mature height45 +
    Has mature width15 +
    Has medicinal partUnknown part +
    Has medicinal useAntibiotic +, Antirheumatic +, Antiseptic +, Astringent +, Balsamic +, Diuretic +, Expectorant +, Vasoconstrictor + and Vulnerary +
    Has primary imageAbies_alba_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-001.jpg +
    Has search nameabies alba + and x +
    Has seed requiring scarificationNo +
    Has seed requiring stratificationNo +
    Has shade tolerancePermanent shade +
    Has soil ph preferenceAcid + and Neutral +
    Has soil teclayture preferenceClay +
    Has soil teheavy clayture preferenceHeavy clay +
    Has soil teloamyture preferenceLoamy +
    Has soil tesandyture preferenceSandy +
    Has sun preferenceFull sun +
    Has taxonomy nameAbies alba +
    Has water requirementsmoderate +
    Inhabits ecosystem nicheCanopy +
    Is deciduous or evergreenEvergreen +
    Is herbaceous or woodyWoody +
    Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
    Tolerates air pollutionNo +
    Tolerates maritime exposureNo +
    Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
    Tolerates windNo +