new topic for the Abies in Maryland discussion

hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)September 13, 2013

Since we've broadened beyond my original question about A. lasiocarpa...if we're talking SEEDGROWN/own root firs in Maryland...

Looks like Abies firma would do fine from what I see. A. nordmanniana seems promising, but the "official" literature says it is heat and drought intolerant, I'm not sure how it would have handled a summer like 2007 or 2012 where it rained very little. However, other things I read say it's "one of the best" firs for the Mid-Atlantic, although that publication was specifically talking about the Philadelphia area.

Would a seedgrown A. pinsapo do well? A. pindrow as well.

When it comes down to it, though I can't find any of these as seedling trees anywhere around here. Only cultivars, and those are mostly grown from West-coast propagated liners, likely on poor rootstocks.

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davidrt28 (zone 7)

"though I can't find any of these as seedling trees anywhere around here"

You have to know where to look; visit the VA Arboretum for example, the nursery I already told you (Patuxent Valley, though I can't remember if he has any firs he might), various other less known public gardens. Find the Choukas-Bradley book 'City of Trees'...I've misplaced my copy but I know she talks about where to find quite a few different fir species in the DC area. It's not that quite of a few of them can't grow here, it's just they have a reputation for being "difficult" because you can't plant one at the base of your downspout or whatnot, and expect it tolerate that. Only the specialist nurseries have ever carried them. As we've said before, the various Mediterranean/Asia minor ones do fine in the right spot, and the low-to-mid elevation Asian ones. That's a nice variety right there. The western US ones, less so for obvious reasons.
Nordmann fir comes from an area with generous rain in all seasons and moderately warm temps in summer. There are some large ones as far south as Piedmont North Carolina according to David Parks. Angelika Nurseries produces them for wholesale on the eastern shore so they are maybe not an Abies firma in terms of warm, moist soil tolerance, but they are close. If you want to see a big one, it's across from the Forest Glen metro parking lot. Ok, here, I've saved you a drive:
Based on my very shaky fir ID skills at the time, I thought the one on the left was a Nordmann and the one of the right was a Korean...but I could be wrong. I couldn't get close to the more perfectly cone shaped one on the left, only the chimney-ish one...but it wouldn't surprise me if they were both Nordmanns. The one on the right had much more resinous smelly foliage than the one on the left.

Someone else feel free to go by and correct me.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 1:56AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

And as I already mentioned, yes seed grown A. pindrow would grow just fine. I'll post a pic of my A. pindrow some time this weekend. It's in the same grouping as A. firma, and almost all firs of the grouping grow fine in the mid-Atlantic & upper south.

NOT A. spectabilis, which is from higher, cooler areas. But the American seed companies have seemed to confuse the two and I'm beginning to think no recent A. spectabilis seedling actually is one. OTOH the ones Don Howse grafted a few years ago are the real deal. Fat, plastic-y needles that hardly look real...the plant even struggles in the Pacific Northwest according to Larry Stanley. (btw it was he who assured me that what Colvos sold me as an A. spectabilis seedling could not possibly be correct, so, this is backed by expert opinion. The "A. spectabilis" I ordered from Treehaven & Forestfarm look exactly like it - in other words like an A pindrow seedling. I guess I don't really mind because the more pindrow seedlings, the merrier) A. pindrow has normally textured fir needles, they are just absolutely gigantic. This gives them a very bold and distinctive look: hit google images for examples. I could spot the one at Dilworth from about a hundred feet away...I said to them "my gosh is that an Abies pindrow?" Wish I'd had my camera with me; I had no idea the whole nursery would be gone in a year.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 2:19AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Well, I hadn't got into GoogleStreetView before -- thanks David. Sorry to hijack your thread, hair, but I gotta try it.

Below should be a view of a large but ailing sassafras in fairly nearby LaVale, MD. Looks like the sassafras has a bad case of some type of recurring anthracnose:

Here is a link that might be useful: LaVale, MD sassafras

This post was edited by beng on Sat, Sep 14, 13 at 12:13

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 11:36AM
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If you can find it, look out for Abies gamblei (syn. A. pindrow var. brevifolia). It comes from much the same area as A. pindrow, but in drier areas (rain shadow valleys) so is likely to be more drought tolerant.

Also worth looking for Abies recurvata.


    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 4:43PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I assume Greek Fir, Abies cephalonica is a good one as well?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 5:04PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

I have an Abies recurvata, it's doing very well.
Generally speaking, conifers are so-called drought tolerant compared to other plants groups like broad leaved evergreen. The Asian ones are surprisingly tough during dry spells, considering most of them have phenotypes that "expect" a constant summer monsoon. One must remember that up until the time monsoon starts, it can be quite hot & dry.
As for A. cephalonica it should do well like the other Mediterranean firs. Beng or Spruceman will remember more about what's at the VA State Arboretum but I know there's a huge A. numidica there and I think a A. cephalonica too.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 6:23PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Been quite a few yrs ago, but pretty sure the below is a large specimen of A holophylla (Manchurian fir) in the VA state arb. I was quite impressed -- look at the trunk size in the shadows:

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 7:58AM
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From my experience, A. pinsapo is a tough drought tolerant fir that doesn't seem to care about hot spells. I've seen many fine examples in public parks in Madrid, Spain where summer temperatures can peak to 45 úC (113) and they do well even in full sun expositions. But these were full grown trees, baby ones may be quite less resistant.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 1:06PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Abies bornmuelleriana is intriguing - has anyone grown one?

Seems to be either a more drought tolerant variant of A. nordmanniana, or possibly a natural hybrid of A. nordmanniana with A. cephalonica.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 10:54PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Bumping this back up.

A lot of these species mentioned are tough to find, but I have found that between SheffieldâÂÂs Seeds & F. W. Schumacher, pretty much all are available as seeds.

I realize they probably start slowly, but how difficult are Abies to grow from seed?

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 2:32PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

"From my experience, A. pinsapo is a tough drought tolerant fir that doesn't seem to care about hot spells. I've seen many fine examples in public parks in Madrid, Spain where summer temperatures can peak to 45 úC (113)"

Yes but the problem in the SE US isn't absolute high temperature per se, it's high dewpoints and rain fall amounts. The downpours that bring 2"/7+ cm of rain in a single storm, and/or the months that bring 12"/30cm for the month. Some Mediterranean do anomalously well in the SE US though, perhaps because there was once a time that area had rainier summers while the same is not true (as) of California, probably. Even now, Rome has more rainfall in summer than practically any place in CA except for some zn 7 mountaintops.

Can't say how difficult it is, probably not hard with correct stratification (which you can achieve by just sowing them in a protected spot outside) but the issue for most of us is more the time it takes, I think. Treehaven has very reasonable prices on 2-3 year old seedlings. Are you

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 3:31PM
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fairfield8619(Zone 8 NW LA)

The A. recurvata I planted lasted winter looks very good, grew a bit, so far, interesting to see what will happen next summer. Also, P. omorika looks good too and pushed about 4-5 in the first year. The big surprise is the japanese larix- two came bareroot and planted late, one is just ok, the other grew 1ft, very surprised. The much less vigorous one was planted in what I thought would be better conditions- more sun, better water. I have two Psuedolarix now that should be ok here from what I read.The stars of the experiment was the P. torano, also planted late and look perfect, not a bad needle anywhere, I really got down to check too. I even ordered another one. With very marginal things, I feel that if they make it through the first summer here then there is some small hope that they might make it. Abies pindrow did not make it but oddly, two I started from seed are doing fine in a nursery bed. I think it is worth another try.
A lot could have been that I was trying to spoon fed the water because of the water bill, then when we got the well working I went crazy and overwatered things. Very uneven and sporadic watering. I will do just two long soakings next summer.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 5:21PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Good luck with the Japanese larch, but even if you have very sandy soil, I think you'll eventually have problems with them. I've had several die, taking 1-4 years to do so, and I just don't think they are viable here with the intense coastal rainfall I can get. Maybe up in the zn 6b and beyond parts of MD they will be OK.
One irritating thing about them is, IMHO, there is every reason to think the world's existing seed stocks are rather inbred. The seed vendors don't even sell seed collected in Japan where it is native, they sell Chinese seed presumably from forestry operations there. I've asked a horticulturalist in Japan if he's ever seen seed for sale there and he said he couldn't find any. Apparently the notion of growing natives from seed there is foreign to their mindset. They are dying by the square kilometer of a new variant of Phytophthora in England...again...probably a sign in my opinion that they were inbred. (Oomycetes haven't been known to kill any conifer en masse until now) Sadly the F2/F3 L. X eurolepis die just as easily.

OTOH the L. mastersiana I have has grown very well, and was presumably collected from native stands in China. I wish I'd bought a couple more when Colvos Creek had them. It's also somewhat more attractive in my opinion. Since grafting to any other Larix is out of the question now, I will try to root it next summer using various concentrations of IBA.

Actually come to think of there a chance it could graft onto Pseudotsuga wilsoniana? Resin? Salicaceae? That is growing like gangbusters - fastest conifer I've grown by far - and clearly loves hot, wet soil. What about Pseudolarix? They grow quite slowly, but seem to resist conditions in the SE better than any Larix.

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Fri, Dec 27, 13 at 18:31

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 6:29PM
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fairfield8619(Zone 8 NW LA)

I'm on a pretty sharp slope so drainage is not a problem- we don't get the rain either like they do in south La, it is quite dry in summer, we are just minutes from the tx state line. My problem will be keeping it moist enough.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 7:01PM
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fairfield8619(Zone 8 NW LA)

davidrt28, email me please.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 9:44PM
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Firs good for MD?

In far Western MD, in the mountains, I am growing several. The two best there are A. nordmanniana and bournmuelleriana. Both are growing very vigorously with lush green foliage. One of the Nordmanns is over 35 feet tall and growing about 2 feet per year. The bournmuelleriana got a slower start, but is growing just about as fast.

I am growing both also at my place just north of Winchester. The climate here is more like most of Maryland, but maybe a bit dryer. They are starting out well here also, but they are more recent plantings. After 12 years the tallest Nordmann is about 20 feet tall, and looking nice. The bournmullerianas are younger, just getting up to 5 feet or so now, but showing promise.

But I think the best fir for Northern VA and most of MD would be holophylla. At the VA arboretum there are two, one of which is mislabeled as nephrolepsis. They are both spectacular. I have three young ones growing here, and they are just "taking off" now. Very, very vigorous so far.

For a "shot in the dark," so to speak, you might try cilicica. I have two young ones growing here, and they are getting a "gangbusters" start. But, I guess, it is too early to really be sure how they will do long-term. I have not seen any older ones.

In the fir section of the National Arboretum--you should go there and have a peek--one of the very best, to my eyes, is the vilmorinii, a hybrid between cephalonica and pinsapo. I have not tried one here for two reasons--they are very hard to find, and I am not sure about what rootstock to use. All the firs I am growing, with two exceptions, are seedlings.

As for Cephalonica, I have one growing here. It is still small, but it is showing promise. As for pinsapo, I would skip that one. It will grow well here, but I don't think it is attractive. There is a large, old one growing at the Montpellier estate (James Monroe"s home), and I just don't think it is that attractive. There is a small/medium one at the VA Arboretum also.

The other fir at the National arboretum that really caught my attention, is the numidica. I have two little ones growing here, but they are slow, slow, slow starters--I should live so long! But they may eventually be very good, so if you have patience and are young, try one.

I also have chensiensis, which are doing OK, but they are relatively slow starters. And I have a grafted (rootstock?) nebrodensis, and so far--4 feet tall-- it is looking good.

It is my opinion that fir trees are a good bet for MD, especially those I have mentioned here. I am sure there are others. But, again, the holophylla should be the best.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 3:39PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Spruceman, nice to see you back. Maybe we just didn't cross "thread paths", but I feel like I hadn't seen a post from you for a few months.
I agree the A. holophylla at the VA State Arboretum looks great. But people should be warned it shares a certain trait with Abies firma: odorlessness! In the same Rushford phylogenetic grouping and expected to perform almost as well in the upper south at least, Abies recurvata and Abies pindrow have fragrant foliage. Just search "davidrt28" "fragrance" "fir" for my previous long discussions of the topic.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 5:09PM
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I am here, but just not posting much. Yes, I love fir fragrance, but I never gave the holophylla a sniff. I was at one or two points going to try a recurvata, but never did. I would like to plant some more firs, but they are all slow starters, and some especially so. I am now 74, and most firs planted as small seedlings or grafts, take about 5 years to start growing much, so... Also, most of my premier planting spots are taken now.

I have turned to planting more pines--groves of special strain loblollies from the VA nursery, some pitch/lob hybrids, and white pines. These are going into the fields way in the back. I am mixing in some maples, oaks, and some other things.

One note on the pitch/lob hybrids I got from the Mo Dept of Ag--they were supposed to be amazingly fast, but the special strain straight loblollies from VA are beating them.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 3:46PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

OK, can someone clear this up for me?

Is Abies bornmuelleriana the same as A. nordmanniana subsp. Equi-trojani or not?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 11:34AM
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The answer to this question would seem to depend on who you ask. In, Conifers Around the World, they are treated as separate species. "A. bornmuelleriana is distinct in having (mostly) glabrous branchlets, resinous buds, longer needles with even brighter silvery lower surfaces, and immature cones that are blood-red in the center in cross section with longer and wider recurved bracts...A. equis-trojani..differs in its more rigid pointed needles, and non-resinous buds."

On the other hand, in Aljos Farjon's A Natural History of Conifers, he states "Traditionally, three species of Abies were recognized in northern Turkey, Abies equi-trojani, A. bornmuelleriana, and A. nordmanniana. They occur in disjunct populations from east to west; the first two are much smaller than the last, which spreads beyond the Turkish borders into the Caucasus. If you compare specimens from northern and western Turkey, you will find that there are no distinct characters and that the differences, where they seem to exist, are gradual. The geographic separation is real, but it can be explained by climate change since the last ice age...Therefore, I recognized A. nordmanniana and one separate subspecies."

Lumpers versus splitters, take your pick.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 7:54AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Since several nurseries sell BOTH A. equi-trojani and A. bornmuelleriana, it confused me. Forestfarm lists both of them actually.

Maybe plant both and see what happens?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 11:16PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Bumping this up.

Where does Abies homolepis fall? Is it a reasonable one to try here?

    Bookmark   December 27, 2014 at 2:45PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

I think homolepis is similar to holophylla, but little info is available. Pretty sure I saw a labeled homolepis in the VA State Arb that looked similar to the other firs in size.

Good luck finding one. Holophylla from ForestFarm so far looks good here -- no issue as a small seedling getting thru last winter.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2014 at 9:26AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Sorry if hijacking, but David's comments above about phytophthora killing larches prb'ly is the best explanation for my dying hybrid larch. I can see no obvious predator on the stems/needles, so root-death seems the logical reason. So now I worry about my nearby Japanese larch getting infected. Nothing I can do, tho. Below is the sorry hybrid larch (behind & just left of the J. larch) on its last legs:

    Bookmark   December 28, 2014 at 9:55AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Sorry beng, but thanks for the update.
I wonder if Longwood does anything to keep their beautiful larch trees alive in SE PA. I think like knowing how sausage is made, you aren't really supposed to know what they might or might not do in terms of chemical treatment. There is a tree in a private garden west of Harrisburg. It's always been growing in the shade of pines so perhaps that kept its root run cool and relatively dry...?

OTOH there has been solid evidence of a handful them still growing well in parts of the deep south like Alabama. I once analyzed the records of - who was it, MIssouri Botanic Garden? I can't even remember now - and noticed that, just as I suspected, the ones to have survived there long-term were grown from seed collected in Japan. The ones that died probably came from European forestry sources = inbred. No current seed vendor has seeds collected in Japan, and many hours spent in google translator to try to locate a Japanese native seed seller were unsuccessful; the US horticulturalist living in southern Japan who posts to various other boards told me he had never encountered any interest in selling seeds of most native species. According to him, In the very rare case someone wants a wild plant there, they just go dig one up.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2014 at 5:08PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

btw Longwood has both big L. decidua and L. kaempferis.

Not far north of you beng, but perhaps with much cooler summers, I've seen wild European Larches at IIRC only 1500' of elevation in central PA. In the mountains around Lock Haven.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2014 at 5:14PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Perhaps the disease issues popping up will eventually get someone collecting wild seed in Japan.

Is it legal to do so as a tourist? Just wondering...

    Bookmark   December 28, 2014 at 6:11PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

David, that's interesting about the larches -- I was on a PA mountain (Tuscarora?) just north of the MD border in a state forest & there were many young Larix laricina (eastern larch) that were obviously seeded & growing in a previously clear-cut mountaintop area. I've seen a number of areas where PA state forestry had done some of these experimental plantings -- like baldcypresses and paper birches.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2014 at 9:17AM
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Am calling this one Abies alba. Kind of hard to say for sure because it never makes cones.
It grows happily in a cemetery in Maryland. Notice the beautiful sweep of the lower branches. However did the mowing crew resist the temptation to remove them I don't know but am glad they didn't. The needles are almost black in winter. Prolly someone used it as a Christmas tree and planted it out later.
Where does one buy seedlings of Silver Fir? No clue.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2014 at 12:15PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Treehaven had Abies alba seedlings a couple years ago but one gets the impression he is winding down business. They have grown fine here, as have all the other low to mid elevation Eurasian firs I've tried. (see my other posts if necessary)
Abies lasiocarpa and A. grandis have been killed by my summer humidity.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2014 at 1:33PM
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