Conifers Around the World

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Abies cilicica - Cilician Fir

szo, 09/16/2017 - 22:01

On a recent trip to Turkey our team was driving through the Toros mountains in the Akseki region. As the road was ascending the vegetation changed according to elevation and exposure, from mediterranean maquis to high-mountain mixed deciduous/evergreen shrub-forests and scrubs (pseudomaquis).

Beginning around 800 m open stands of juniper formed attractive views – especially memorable were the scattered trees of Syrian juniper (the male individuals just in the best phase of pollinating, May 2, 2010). As reaching higher elevations, more and more trees of the Cilician fir, as well as Lebanon cedar, appeared in the mountainous landscape.

It was a gorgeous day and we stopped several times to take photos. Some of these are seen below, alongside some other shots that we took in our first visit to the region in 1980, or in cultivation at other times.

The trees in the native habitats (locally called Toros göknarı) withstand harsh circumstances – cold windy winters, lots of snowload, hot and dry weather during summers.

The species is widely cultivated in temperate zones although sometimes misnamed (confused with Abies nordmanniana). The cones are markedly different – Abies cilicica having bracts usually hidden (versus exserted and reflexed in A. n.). Interestingly, both species can have cones either reddish-brown or light green.

Abies gamblei - Gamble Fir

cs, 08/10/2017 - 18:30
If one goes on the web to search for information on the plant under the name Abies gamblei, very little descriptive account will be found. And, interestingly enough, there will be some small-scale photos actually showing Abies pseudochensiensis!   As discussed in Conifers Around the World (see pages 1013 to 1015, as well as the species descriptions on p. 300 and 306) the two plants are different enough not to confuse them. It is also clear today that the plant described as Abies pindrow var. brevifolia (by Dallimore and Jackson in 1923), and recently treated as Abies pindrow subsp. gamblei by Rushforth (1999) cannot be placed under Abies pindrow – it is a different entity.   It was Robert Hickel who described Abies gamblei as a distinct species (with the type specimen deposited in the Paris Herbarium) and time confirmed his assumption. This latter species appears under various names in local literature, most notably as Abies spectabilis (in error) and sometimes as Abies webbiana (also erroneously). Some local references call this plant as "High Level Himalayan Fir" with the upper altitudinal limit as 3700 m. Though Abies spectabilis may occur at such altitudes (exemplified by a few trees in the upper Langtang Valley in Nepal) those places belong to the wetter parts of the Himalayas. Abies gamblei however grows in the drier parts of the Himalayas, from western Nepal westward to eastern Afghanistan. In this rather extensive area, it separates from Abies pindrow at altitudes around 3000 m, with the latter always at lower elevations while Abies gamblei appearing around 3000 m and reaching 3500 m.There are no transitional forms between the two. Their morphological differences are rather obvious, as shown in the species plates here.   The landscape photo was taken on Mt. Churdhar (Himachal State, India) at around 3200 m, where Abies gamblei occurs in large stands mainly associated with Quercus semecarpifolia.   For more details turn to Conifers Around the World. Also, a more detailed study of the above mentioned species is underway. Tags: Abies

Abies alba - European White Fir

cs, 08/10/2017 - 13:59

A common and most easily met fir species of Europe, not counted Abies sibirica that occurs widely in the vast lands of eastern-northeastern Europe (bordered by the Ural mountains). 

Abies alba occurs in the Alps (300–1800 m) and the other mountains of central Europe reaching the East Carpathians (1100–1500 m), the Balkan Peninsula (300–1950 m), central Poland (140+ m) and westward, the Massif Central and the hills of Normandy in France, the Pyrenees (<2100 m), to the south the Apennines (<1950 m) and Corsica (<1800 m).

Of conifers, it typically associates with Picea abiesLarix deciduaPinus sylvestris, also with Juniperus communis var. saxatilis, and P. mugo subsp. uncinata. Populations in Bulgaria and probably in Albania are referred to Abies borisii-regis, a southeastern relative. Another species related to Abies alba is the Sicilian Fir, Abies nebrodensis.

It can grow into a large tree (with literature references given as up to 65 m and 3.2 m trunk diameter) with rather light gray bark, straight trunk, light gray branchlets, needles up to 3.5 cm long (usually to 2.5 cm) and cones up to 15 (rarely 20) cm long.


Tags: AbiesAlps

Cupressus dupreziana - Tarout

cs, 08/10/2017 - 11:33
Documenting such a unique species is a lifetime experience. This could happen for us in April 2003, organized with the kind help of the Embassy of Algeria in Budapest, and with the professional assistance of the Institut National De La Recherche Forestiere (INRF) in Cheraga, Alger. There, Dr. Nedjahi Abdellah, Director General of the institute arranged that his colleague Mr. Gadiri Nassim of INRF was to accompany István to Djanet, foot of the Tassili Plateau.   The flight from Algiers to Djanet, the "capital of Tassili", located in southeastern Algeria, Illizi Province, at around 1000 m elevation, was taking us over long stretches of the Sahara. The ocean of sand, often with intricate waves, and in many places spotted by protruding boulders, was an amazing sight by itself. Landing was kind of exciting because it seemed the plane will end up in the sea of sand – but all was well done. Getting out and traveling from the airport to Djanet when the temperature was about 43°C …   A few words on Djanet, and its people. Djanet, in the Tamashek language, a Tuareg dialect, means "a resting place" (for caravans). The nearby Tassili Plateau (home of the Tarout, that is, Cupressus dupreziana), means "rocky upland". The local Tuareg insist that they are not a nation, but they are members of the "Tuareg Civilisation" – several tribes of the Tuareg live in Algeria, Lybia, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. Djanet was founded about 900 years ago next to a large oasis, famous for the large population of the date palm. Today about 10 thousand people live in the city and its surroundings.   The same day, in the afternoon, we met the Tassili National Park officials and made arrangements for the hike to the cypress habitat on the plateau. The national park was established in 1972 with the main goal to preserve the remaining trees of Cupressus dupreziana. In 1982 the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   Next day a small team of 5 people led by a Tuareg guide started very early in the morning to visit the 'Djabbaren' location of the cypress. Participants: Mr. Gadiri Nassim (INRF); Mr. Agaahmed Mohamed, a mountain guide from the Office du Parc National du Tassili (OPNT) in Djanet; Ms. Dekkal Ferroudja and Mr. Sebti Denar from the local Conservation des Forets (office of forest administration); and myself. We start early morning in the dark and after a 10-km drive reach the foot of the plateau by jeep. From about 1010 m we climb to the plateau and reach the rim at around 11 AM (elev. about 1750 m). Within the range of the species, the Djabbaren location has 5 old trees of the cypress. We notice the first trees in about 30 minutes. Three cypress specimens (with trunk diameters from 40 to 90 cm) and their associated plants were documented in about 2 hours. Another site of the same general location, about 1 km from the previous site, had 2 perfect specimens (trunk diameters near base are 80 and 140 cm, respectively) and a dead trunk of Cupressus dupreziana. After documenting of these trees, we start to descend and reach the foot of the plateau around sunset.   The very few woody plants associated with the cypress include Lavandula pubescens, Myrtus nivellei, Olea laperrini, and Ziziphus lotus.   The pictures taken on site were greatly needed for the photo plate now in Conifers Around the World, page 176, here also reproduced. We thank all the guides and helpers (see images below) who kindly assisted this visit.    

Chamaecyparis formosensis - Taiwan Sawara Cypress

h, 07/03/2017 - 22:06

This species is among the most remarkable conifers and one of the true giants of the island of Taiwan, occurring at elevations between 1000 and 2900 m. Our DAP team's documenting the conifers and their habitats in Formosa was coordinated by the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (T.F.R.I.) and made possible with support from both the I.D.R.I., Inc. and Earthwatch, Center for Field Research. – During decades of forest exploitation, huge expanses of magnificent forests, containing Honggui, as well as Chamaecyparis obtusa var. formosana, Cunninghamia lanceolata var. konishii and Taiwania cryptomerioides, have disappeared forever. Today, the remaining "giant forests", with a number of ancient trees of Chamaecyparis formosensis, are strictly protected. The tree may attain heights of 65 m and trunk diameters of 6.5 m. One of the giants, once labeled "Alishan Sacred Tree", has its own story in part connected to the building the Ali Shan Forest Railway during the Japanese occupation. The narrow-gauge railway was designed to help extracting timber from the mountain and initially (1912) gained about 2000 m elevation from close to sea level to the place called Erwanping; later it was expanded to reach 2421 m near Zhushan. During the construction a 53 m high and 6.3 m-diameter tree of Chamaecyparis formosensis was discovered at around 2180 m; it was estimated to be 3000 years old. The tree was struck by lightening in 1947 and eventually its trunk became hollowed. Still it was an imposing natural object admired by thousands of visitors, who came to Ali Shan ("Arishan") to enjoy the mountain climate and scenery. It was also admired by us on November 22, 1996 during a brief visit to the mountain as part of the 3-month expedition to Taiwan. With the assistance of colleagues of T.F.R.I. we made a girth measurement of the fluted trunk (18.9 m) and took some photos. One of these, below, has a group next to the huge trunk, with Kathy Musial on left, Ju Li-ping in the middle and Zsolt Debreczy on the right. Reportedly, "on the morning of July 1, 1997, the day Hong Kong was handed over to China, this tree which had stood tall throughout history finally succumbed to the ravages of time, toppling with a loud crash amidst a torrential downpour. A year later, the Forestry Bureau decided for safety considerations to take down what remained of its trunk. The great tree could finally rest in peace."

Thuja plicata - Western Redcedar

h, 07/03/2017 - 21:56

For our team the most memorable documentation of Thuja plicata occurred in the Pacific Northwest in a magnificent old-growth forest in the Olympic Peninsula. In the northwest, this tree can reach enormous sizes (exemplified by Quinalt Lake Cedar, height 53 m and trunk about 6 m in diameter, b.h.; data published by Robert Van Pelt, 2001). In the temperate rainforests locally the tree receives 3000 mm or more rainfall in a year, and lives under almost constantly humid and temperate climatic conditions – no severe cold, no really hot weather. Also, the wood, containing tropolones, has a good decay resistance, contributing to the long life span of the Redcedar. The tree was a very important part of the native peoples living in the northwest: the wood, bark, foliage, and even the root was used for multiple purposes (for a good overview see – Western Redcedar is in cultivation from the mid-1800s in the temperate zones and thrives very well even in sites much drier than most of its native habitats. In Hungary, the oldest tree of Thuja plicata is found in Arboretum Alcsuthiense, planted in the middle of the 1800s at the property of Archduke Joseph (1776-1847), Palatine of Hungary for over 50 years. Two photos here show the lower trunk and rooted lateral branches of the tree that is today over 30 m high, 25 m wide and the girth of the main trunk is 350 cm (data from F. Halász).

Fitzroya cupressoides - Alerce

h, 07/03/2017 - 21:31

To document Fitzroya, the "redwood of the south" and the 'National Tree' of Chile, was another exciting task for our expedition in 1996. It was a real treat to work in the magnificent Araucaria forests – huge stands, many old trees, and incredibly beautiful scenery on the foothills of Volcán Llaima. Similarly extensive ancient stands of Fitzroya are actually absent. As known from the history of "Alerce exploitation", during the many decades of uncontrolled forest harvest in Chile no other conifer species has been logged so extensively as Fitzroya… Logged to almost zero especially from the lowland areas, from where it was easier to extract the fine wood the fallen trees provided for timber traders. Recent research has shown that once the Alerce stand is cut, this noble species cannot regenerate successfully, that is, Fitzroya cannot be "sustainably logged". There are many factors contributing to this sad conclusion. In the very humid environment where Alerce grows there are many, including alien, species that immediately take over the place, overshadowing, hindering the species' regeneration. – We studied this species and its plant associations in February 1996 in a few locations. One was Monumento Natural Alerce Costero where there is a remnant very old tree with a trunk diameter of 4.26 m at the widest. Though its crown is damaged, the large trunk is extremely impressive (see photo with Zsolt and Gyöngyi) as it provides a real "Sequoia-like" appearance. Close to it there were some very old trees of Saxegothaea conspicua which (along with Podocarpus nubigenus) is the most typical associated conifer at that location.

Lepidothamnus fonkii - Magellan Dwarf-cypress

h, 07/03/2017 - 21:26
Lepidothamnus fonkii is the southernmost conifer in the world, reaching 55°S in the Magallanes region of Chile and Argentina's Patagonia and occurring in habitats from sea level to about 600 m. (Pilgerodendron uviferum is almost as southern as L. fonkii, and they often associate with each other, growing in very wet conditions where summers are rainy and cool, and winters are rainy and mild.) Our team has met with Lepidothamnus, this peculiar podocarpoid conifer, in the Villa Sta. Lucia area near the famous "Carretera Longitudinal Austral" between Chaitén and La Junta (Región de Los Lagos (X)). Large patches of the plant were up to 0.5 m high in extensive peatmoss bog (turbera). Based on that documentation we could compile the photo plate for Conifers Around the World (page 875). Very recently, we received an excellent series of interesting photographs of the same plant from our friend and colleague Jeff Bisbee (Nevada) who visited southern South America and provided us with the following report. His photos were taken in a general habitat somewhat different from what we documented.   (contribution from Jeff Bisbee:)   Recently, while visiting southern Chile (on a rare day with little wind and sunshine) I was able to photograph Lepidothamnus fonkii in the peat-bogs in a very rainy area, south of Puerto Natales. On my first attempt, I was unable to locate these tiny plants. Determined to find them, I returned to the same bog the next day. Spotting some Pilgerodendron uviferum in the distance, I decided to take a closer look. While examining them, I suddenly looked at my feet and realized that I was walking through a tiny "forest" of Lepidothamnus fonkii! They were scarcely more than 15 centimeters tall. At the time of my visit (early March), there were still a few plants that were "coning", which consists of a single seed. The peat bogs are surrounded by forests of Nothofagus betuloides and N. pumilio.