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Shoot, foliage, and cone scale from tree of subsp. equi-trojani in Seattle arboretum; cone scale is 3 cm across [C.J. Earle 2010].


Branch tip/foliage detail from the same tree [C.J. Earle 2010].


Branch from the same tree [C.J. Earle 2010].


Trees of type variety in the Teberda Nature Reserve, Caucasus; Picea orientalis on hillslope in distance [Vladimir Dinets].


Selected firs of the Mediterreanean region.
A. cilicica = Dark green.
A. pinsapo var. marocana = Dark red.
A. nordmanniana = Purple (Vidakovic 1991).


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Type subspecies:

Conservation status

Subspecies equi-trojani:

Conservation status

Abies nordmanniana

(Steven) Spach 1841

Common names

Caucasian fir; Pikhta kavkazkaya (Farjon 1990).

Taxonomic notes


One subspecies, equi-trojani (Aschers. et Sint. ex Boiss.) Coode et Cullen. Synonyms for subspecies equi-trojani (Silba 1986, Farjon 1990, Vidakovic 1991):

Vidakovic observes that: "[a]ccording to Flous (1936), A. bornmüelleriana is a hybrid between Greek and Caucasian fir, while Mattfeld (1930) believes it is a transitional type between the silver fir and Greek fir" (Vidakovic 1991). Vidakovic suggests that "throughout the entire Caucasus and north Turkey only one species occurs--A. nordmanniana" (Vidakovic 1991).

Farjon provides some further insights to the taxonomic disputes about this group of firs, noting that subspecies, equi-trojani "has been treated as a species by Mattfeld (1925). Earlier proposals to relate it to A. cephalonica or even A. alba have been abandoned by Davis et al. (1965) and Nitzelius (1969), but were again made by Liu (1971)" (Farjon 1990). He also concludes that "[t]he geographically separated populations in W and N Turkey, described under the above mentioned names and at various taxonomic levels, are found to be entirely clinal (Nitzelius, 1969)" (Farjon 1990).


Evergreen tree to 61 m tall, densely branched from ground up, branches regularly arranged. Bark grey-brown, smooth with resin blisters until very old. Needles dense, directed forward, 20-30 mm long, 2-2.5 mm wide, apex rounded and notched, lustrous dark green above, 2 white stomatal bands below, buds not resinous. Cones red-brown, 15 cm long and 5 cm wide, cylindrical (Oregon State University 2003, University of Connecticut 2001).

Subsp. equi-trojani is described as "[a] narrowly conical tree 20-30 m tall, 1.8-4 m girth, with a somewhat rounded crown. Bark thick, divided into scaly plates, yellowish grey-brown. Branchlets shiny yellowish brown to orange-brown, non-pubescent. Buds ovoid, chestnut brown, resinous, scales free at the apex, apex obtuse, 1-1.2 mm diameter. Needles densely set, irregularly disposed, mostly lying forward and crowded on upper side of branchlet, curving upwards on the lower side of the branchlets, grooved above near the base, 15-30 mm long by 1.5-2 mm wide, 2 white stomatal bands below with 6-8 lines, apex pointed or obtuse. Female cones cylindric-ovoid, reddish-brown to dark brown, apex ovoid, to 10 cm long by 4-4.5 cm wide; bracts long exerted and reflexed, sharp pointed, lobed. Seeds to 6 mm long, to 22 mm long with wing." It is found in Greece: Mt. Parnassus to W. Anatolia, Turkey, at 760-2000 m (Silba 1986).

Distribution and Ecology

The typical subspecies occurs in W Caucasia (Abkhazia and Georgia) and in the mountains of NE Turkey and N Turkey (Paphlagonia). Introgression with ssp. equi-trojani forms in the western part of its range. It grows in mountains around the E Black Sea at 900-2100 m, on silicic soils. The climate is continental and wet, with annual precipitation of 1000-3000 mm. It occurs in pure stands or mixed with Picea orientalis, Pinus sylvestris, Fagus orientalis, Acer trautvetteri, Carpinus caucasica, Ulmus elliptica, Acer pseudoplatanus, Tilia caucasica, Taxus baccata and Rhododendron ponticum (Farjon 1990).

Subsp. equi-trojani grows in pure stands as isolated relict populations on N slopes of high mountains in W Turkey and on Ulu-Dagh in Bithynia. It prefers calcareous soils (Farjon 1990).

Hardy to Zone 4 (cold hardiness limit between -34.3°C and -28.9°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001, subspecies not specified).

Big tree

Mzymta River, Caucasus National Reserve, Russia (78 m tall, 360 cm dbh) (Vladimir Dinets e-mail 1998.01.02). If accurately measured, this is the largest Abies known. However, it may be that the 360 cm figure represents girth rather than diameter.

Outside of its native range, the largest is a tree at Mararewa near Tapawera, New Zealand: 45.3 m tall (laser measurement) and 180.8 cm dbh with about a 20 m crown spread (Cadwallader 2010). Some other notable examples include a tree at Cragside, Northumberland, UK, that is 47 m tall with a 107 cm dbh, and another at Endsleigh, Devon (UK) that is 32 m tall with a 165 cm dbh (Mitchell et al. 1990).

A tree of subsp. equi-trojani in Tacoma, Washington, USA is 148 cm dbh and 36 m tall (Robert Van Pelt e-mail 1998.12.03).




On 2003.09.02, I received the following e-mail, which is here quoted largely unedited (although I did help the author a bit with his English):

"I am Irakli Lekvinadze from the Republic of Georgia (Caucasia). I have recently read your web site and decided to co-operate with you. I am your colleague and I provide my own family business. I am busy with growing Abies Nordmanniana. Every year in September and October with the employeed local peasants I gather cones in the high mountain region "Racha" (where these trees grow wild), mill the cones and grow the trees. I sell them at Christmas. Despite the fact that peasants do not ask for much as their salary and the prices of the trees and seeds are low, my business is not large. This has its double reason: For the one hand Georgia is in the group of developing countries and the huge part of the population is still in the extreme poverty, so only some afford to buy and decorate trees at Christmas Eve, and for the other, there are some people who unconsciously cut trees breaking law and destroying the nature. These very people do not leave me the chance to increase by business. ... E-mail:"



Nominally discovered by Alexander von Nordmann, Finnish botanist (1803-1866), who introduced it to western Europe in 1838 (Oregon State University 2003).


Cadwallader, Brad. 2010.09.13 email. New Zealand Notable Trees Trust, data for tree TNR/0696., accessed 2010.11.29.

Flous, F. 1936: Classification et evolution d'un groupe d'Abietinées. Travaux Labor. Ford. Toulouse, Tome I, Vol. II, Article XVIII.

Mattfeld, J. 1930: Über hybridogene Sippen der Tannen. Bibliotheca Botanica 100:1-84, Stuttgart.

Oregon State University. 2003. Landscape Plants, Vol. 2., accessed 2003.09.02.

University of Connecticut. 2001. University of Connecticut Plant Database., accessed 2003.09.02.

See also

Arbez, M. 1969. Réparation, écologie et variabilité des sapins de Turquie du nord: Abies Nordmanniana Spach, Abies Bornmuelleriana Mattfeld, Abies equi-trojani Ascherson et Sintenis. Ann. Sci. forest. 16 (2):257-284.

Arbez. M. 1967. Étude des liaisons entre précocité du débourrement, diametre, hauteur et apparition du burgeon terminal, chez de jeunes plants de sapin en pepénière. Bull. Soc. Bot. France 114:15-22.

Arbez, M. 1967. Abies Nordmanniana Spach, Abies Bornmuelleriana Mattfeld. Ann. Sci. forest. 24:121-156.

Farjon (1990).

Last Modified 2012-11-28