What Is A California Red Fir - Abies Magnifica Info

A Large California Red Fir Tree
(Image credit: Supercaliphotolistic)

What is a California red fir? It is an evergreen conifer with flattened needles. Tall and beautiful, the California red fir tree thrives in the wild in coastal regions and mountainous areas of the Pacific Northwest.

If you have a large property, you might consider growing one of these evergreens. Read on for information on how to get started as well as tips on California red fir care.

What Is a California Red Fir?

Native to Oregon, Nevada and California, the evergreen known botanically as Abies magnifica is truly magnificent. This conifer grows in the wild to over 200 feet (60 m.) tall with a trunk diameter at breast height of 6.6 feet (2 m.) and a narrow silhouette. The bark is smooth and grey on young trees but, as the tree matures, it becomes orange and fissured.

Vast forests of California red fir thrive in the Sierras, and their range can be expanded by cultivation. California red fir is grown commercially for use as Christmas trees, but it is also an important source of lumber. 

Growing a California Red Fir

Given the size of the tree, not everyone will be able to consider growing a California red fir. The trees grow very tall and live a long time. They do not even begin producing seed until they are 35 or 45 years old.

These evergreens grow best in areas that are moist and cool to cold. They prefer to grow in sun but also tolerate shade. Deep soil is best for California red fir trees, but their root systems adjust to different types of soil. When the soil permits, the roots plunge deep, but they can be shallow and spreading where the soil is rocky or other issues reduce soil depth.

California Red Fir Care

Anyone who tries growing an Abies magnifica needs to know something about California red fir care. Since these are native trees, they generally need little maintenance if they are cultivated in an appropriate climate and site.

Generally California red fir trees grow best on flat or gently sloping ground with deep soil. They do not thrive on steep slopes where the soil is thin. The trees require ample irrigation. The best growth occurs in areas that get between 30 and 49 inches (750 and 1250 mm) of rain a year during the fall and winter months. Growth is strongest in direct sunlight, but these conifers can grow in deep shade for up to 40 years without losing their vigor.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.