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European silver fir (ESF)

Abies alba

Native range

Native to the mountains of central and southern Europe.

Provenance choice

Limited provenance testing suggests that seed sources from the Czech republic and nearby areas in central Europe should be favoured.

Site requirements

A shade tolerant species which grows slowly for a number of years. Suited to the uplands and other cooler areas of Britain receiving over 1000 mm rainfall evenly distributed across the year. Cold hardy throughout Britain, but vulnerable to frost unless planted under shelter, is sensitive to exposure and is not drought tolerant. Suited to soils of poor to medium nutrient status with fresh to moist soil moisture. Can grow on deep soils over limestone and other calcareous substrates. Does not tolerate very poor soils or heather competition and should not be planted on peats or very dry soils.

Pests and pathogens

Silver fir tends to be infected by a wide variety of rust fungi in its native range, although few of them are of any practical importance. It is vulnerable to Heterobasidion (Fomes root and butt rot), although it is likely to be most damaged by H. abietinum (the fir form of the pathogen) which is absent from Britain. Occasionally Phytophthora root infections are reported, particularly in nursery trees.

Silver fir may also suffer from aphid infestations such as Dreyfusi (Adelges) nusslini, which causes shoot distortion, and balsam wooly aphid, which can cause dieback with severe infestations.


A species which could find an increasing role as a shade tolerant component of Continuous Cover Forestry stands.

Tree species and provenance

Information on species that are either widely grown in British forests at the present time or which could play an increasing role in the future.