It is recorded that a specimen of the Silver
Fir was planted in Harefield Park, near Uxbridge,
in the year 1603, and this is usually regarded
as the date of its introduction to England.
The home of the Silver Fir is in the mountain
regions of Central and Southern Europe. On the
Pyrenees it is found at an elevation of 6,500
feet. Specimens have been recorded in Southern
Germany that have attained a height of nearly
two hundred feet, but in this country a more usual
stature is from one hundred to one hundred and
twenty feet, with a bole girth between ten and
Its trunk is straight and erect, tapering gently,
and covered with smooth bark, of a greyish brown
colour, which in aged specimens becomes rugged
and fissured longitudinally, and of a silvery
Until the Silver Fir is about twelve years old
its growth is slow, and its annual increase is
only a few inches, but later it will be as many
feet. During this early stage spring frosts often
destroy the leader-shoot, but its place is taken
by another shoot, and soon the symmetry of the
tree is restored. It retains its lower branches
for a period of forty or fifty years, but after
that age they begin to fall off. Whilst the tree
is growing up – which is, roughly speaking,
during its first two hundred years – the
crown forms a slender bush; but its vertical growth
completed, the crown grows laterally, and becomes
flat-topped. Its life period covers about four
hundred years. It is a deep-rooting species, with
a branching taproot, and succeeds best in an open
soil that is moist without being wet.
The leaves are flat and slender, not in bundles,
as in the Scots Pine, but arranged along the branchlets
in two or three dense ranks. They are dark, rich
green above, about an inch long, and on the flattened
underside there is a bluish-white stripe on each
side of the midrib, which gives a silvery appearance
to the foliage when upturned, as is usual on the
fertile branches. These leaves endure from six
to nine years.
The flowers appear in May at the tips of the branches.
The male flowers are about three-quarters of an
inch long, and consist of two or three series
of overlapping scales, enclosing the yellow stamens.
The cones are cylindrical, with a blunt top, always
erect, six to eight inches long, and from one
and a quarter to two inches in diameter. On the
back of each of the broad scales there is a long,
slender, pointed bract, which extends beyond the
scale and turns downward. At first these cones
are green, and then become reddish, and when mature
are brown; but maturity is not reached until eighteen
months after their appearance. The angular seeds
are furnished with a broad wing twice their length.
They are shed by the cones in the spring following
their maturity, the scales falling at the same
time and leaving the core of the cone on the tree.
As a rule, the tree does not produce fertile seeds
until it is about forty years of age, but seedless
cones are formed from its twentieth year. Although
the flowers of both sexes are found on the same
tree, it may be that for a series of years only
cones are produced.
The timber, which has an irregular grain, is strong,
and does not warp; but it is soft, and not enduring
where it is exposed to the weather. It is yellowish-white
is colour, and is largely used for interior work.