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The firs, a genus of trees in the pine family characterized by erect cones, absence of resin canals in the wood, and flattened needlelike leaves.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(fir), a genus of coniferous evergreen trees of the family Pinaceae. The trees have a straight trunk, measuring up to 80 m tall. The crown is thick and usually conical in habit. The smooth bark has resinous buds. The flat, linear leaves are generally blunt at the ends and have two pale stomatal bands on the underside. The microstrobiles, or male spikelets, are solitary and consist of numerous microsporophylls located in the leaf axils. The erect cones are oval or cylindrical, and the seeds and scales are spirally arranged. When the winged seeds are ripe, both they and the scales fall from the tree.

There are approximately 50 species of Abies, distributed in the mountains or, less frequently, on the plains of the northern hemisphere. Nine species are native to the USSR, and 16 other species have been introduced into the country. The trees are used as ornamentals and for timber. They are used in landscaping, but they do not tolerate smog and other types of air pollution well. Valuable resins are obtained from the bark of many species.

The most widespread species in the USSR is the Siberian fir (A. sibirica), which is encountered in the northeastern European USSR and in Siberia. It grows on plains and in the mountains up to the timberline. The Siberian fir is a graceful tree, reaching heights as great as 30 m. Its dark green leaves are up to 5 cm long; they are glossy above and emarginate at the apex. The resinous cones are 5 to 8 cm long. The wood is used in the production of paper pulp. The bark yields fir balsam, which is similar to Canada balsam; the needles and branches yield an oil. The Siberian fir is an ornamental and is cultivated outside its natural range.

A relict species, the Nordmann fir (A. nordmanniana), grows in the Caucasus. It is a tall tree, reaching 50 m high. Its trunk has a diameter of 1.5 to 2 m, and its crown is pendulous. The cones are from 12 to 20 cm long. The tree has a life-span of up to 500 years. It is grown as a forest and ornamental variety. In the USSR, A. nordmanniana is found no further north than the Ukraine. The European silver fir (A. alba) is valued for its wood.


Derev’ia i kustarniki SSSR, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.