The Noble fir is a handsome evergreen with large, showy cones. It is used in the landscape as a specimen or ornamental and for a windbreak, plywood and specialty lumber, and holiday greenery.
The Noble fir is a large, narrow tree with a long, clear, columnar trunk and conical crown with short, nearly horizontal branches. Young trees have a conical habit. The bark is gray brown and smooth becoming dark gray, brown or red brown, slightly thickened and furrowed into irregular, long, scaly plates. Compared to other trees, the bark is thin. The needles are bluish-green with whitish lines, grooved above, ridged below, and spreading in two rows, The immature cones are green turning purple brown. The mature cones are big and heavy with sharp tipped papery bracts. The Noble fir grows best in full sun and deep, moist, well drained soil, but will grow on thin, rocky soils if moisture is not limited. It is intolerant of alkaline soils, windy conditions, and shade. The main root is slow growing, lateral roots develop rapidly.
The seeds are food for chickadee, jay, nuthatch, and many other bird species. The seeds are slso eaten by Douglas squirrels, mice and other rodents, and the bark is browsed by black bear. Noble fir provides cover and thermal protection for wildlife.
The Noble fir gets its name from the Latin, Abies nobilis. It held this scientific name for a long time until it was discovered the name was pre-empted by another species. It is the largest native fir in North America. A subalpine tree, it is found in the Cascade Range and the Coast Ranges of the Pacific Northwest of Washington and Oregon, and southwestern Canada. Trees with cone and needle characteristics of noble fir have been reported in northern California. Other common names are red fir, white fir, and larch. It is a long lived pioneer tree meaning that it often comes in aggressively after a disturbance such as fire. Because of its quality and greater strength, the wood of the Noble fir is valued over the wood of other true firs.
The Noble fir prefers moist soil.
The needles are spreading in 2 rows, 1"-1 1/2", distinctly curved at the tip, grooved above, ridged beneath, bluish green with white lines.
May to June.
The cones are cylindrical, 6"-10" by 2"-3", green becoming purplish brown, mostly covered with papery green bracts, upright on topmost twigs. Seed crops vary with location from every 1 to 6 years. The species may bear cones as early as 20 years of age although commercial seed bearing is generally not considered until 50 years of age.