For British Columbians, the forests and landscapes of our province are a source of wonder and relaxation. Every stroll through our natural forests or parks brings an opportunity to appreciate their beauty and diversity, from fragrant cedar groves to ponderosa pine stands. In this series, we will be exploring part of that abundance: Native trees of BC. Although these trees have long been valued by wildlife and communities for providing food, materials and habitat, there is still much to learn about each tree’s unique characteristics. We love trees, and we know you do too.
The Amabilis Fir (Pacific Silver) Tree
The Amabilis fir, commonly known as the Pacific silver fir, is by far one of the most beautiful and valuable trees in BC. This majestic tree graces many of our forests and parks with its symmetrical crown and light gray bark. But what makes this tree so special? Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about the Pacific silver fir.
Where does it grow?
The Pacific silver fir grows in areas with mild summers and mild winters and high rainfall. It is native to western North America, particularly along the coast from southern Alaska to northern California, but can also be found inland up to elevations of 4,000 feet. In British Columbia, it is common in moist coastal rainforests and subalpine meadows of the Coast Mountains and Vancouver Island. In the Okanagan Valley, it can be found growing along streams or on wet sites near lakeshore or floodplains.
What does it look like?
At maturity, this evergreen conifer has a low-taper stem and a narrow symmetrical crown with lateral branches that are perpendicular to its stem. Its light gray bark becomes scaly and grooved with age. The needles are bluish green on top with two white lines underneath giving off a silvery appearance (hence its name). It can grow exceptionally tall – up to 70 metres – making it an impressive sight!
What uses does it have?
Pacific silver fir is highly valued for timber production due to its light-coloured wood which has no odour or gum nor resin content. Its wood is commonly used for construction purposes such as framing lumber, plywood products, paper pulp chips and particleboard/oriented strand board (OSB). Additionally, Pacific silver fir provides important habitat for many species of wildlife including birds and mammals such as grouse, deer and bear who rely on its dense foliage for cover from predators.
The Pacific silver fir is truly an amazing species that offers tremendous value to our local environment here in the Okanagan Valley. Not only does it provide us with timber resources but also offers essential habitat for many species of wildlife. Next time you find yourself walking through a forest or park in BC take a moment to appreciate these majestic trees!
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