Pacific silver fir, Abies amabilis, in the Salmon Mountains, Marble Mountain Wilderness, Klamath National Forest


Abies amabilis


While Pacific silver fir extends into Alaska, the southernmost stand grows at Hancock Lake (6345 feet), in the Salmon Mountains (Marble Mountain Wilderness, Klamath National Forest). In July, 2015, I was fortunate to have the entire lake to myself, to savor these beauties growing with Shasta fir, Brewer spruce, mountain hemlock, and western white pine.

Many species grow at low elevations or sea level at high latitudes, and at higher elevations in the southern latitudes. This is the case with Pacific silver fir. In California, it grows on cool, moist north-facing slopes above 5000 feet only in Siskiyou County. In Canada, north of Vancouver Island, it grows abundantly at sea level.

Michael Kauffmann has studied extensively and mapped the Klamath populations of Pacific silver fir. Check out his blogs here, and here.

Pacific silver fir can grow to over 200 feet and can live 300 to 500 years.

Cones are 4 to 6 inches, purplish, and cluster at top of the tree.

Needles I observed (early July) had a soft, fluffy quality, and the undersides have two silvery white stomatal bands.

Pacific silver fir, Abies amabilis, bark of young tree
Pacific silver fir, Abies amabilis, underside of needles showing distinct white stomatal bands
Possible Pacific silver fir growing at Hancock Lake in the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Possible Pacific silver fir growing at Hancock Lake in the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Bark of older trees exhibits blocky quality.


My first sighting of Pacific silver fir was in this jumbled area near Diamond Lake, which seems to show multiple kinds of damage or forest evolution. The area between Diamond and Hancock lakes is comprised of Pacific silver fir, Shasta fir (Abies x shastensis), and mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana). 2015 was in the middle of a multi-year drought, and Diamond Lake was more marsh than lake.