Abies religiosa


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Abies religiosa
Species Authority: (Kunth) Schltdl. & Cham.
Common Name(s):
English Sacred Fir, Oyamel Fir
Spanish Oyamel
Abies colimensis Rushforth & Narave
Abies religiosa (Kunth) Schltdl. & Cham. variety colimensis (Rushforth & Narave) Silba
Abies religiosa (Kunth) Schltdl. & Cham. variety perotensis Silba
Pinus religiosa Kunth
Taxonomic Notes: Was in the database as Abies colimensis Rushforth & Narave. A. colimensis is a cone colour form of A. religiosa (A. Farjon in litt. 2000).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2011-05-06
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P., Perez de la Rosa, J. & Rushforth, K.

This is the most widespread and abundant species of Abies in Mexico; its extent of occurrence and probably its area of occupancy are beyond the thresholds for a threatened category. There is likely to have been some impact from logging but this has not resulted in sufficient reduction to fall within the threatened thresholds. On the available information it is assessed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Recorded from the highlands of central and southern Mexico and western Guatemala.
Guatemala; Mexico (Chiapas, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México Distrito Federal, México State, Michoacán, Morelos, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, Veracruz)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: May form large stands. Overall, the population is thought to be decreasing.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Abies religiosa is a high mountain species, occurring between 1,200 m and 4,100 m a.s.l., but more commonly between 2100 m and 3,100 m, usually on well drained mountain soils of volcanic origin. The climate is cool, moist oceanic on ranges near the coast, colder with more snow in the interior, with abundant precipitation. There are pure stands of this fir at the higher elevations, but it is often mixed with Pinus montezumae, P. hartwegii, in the north of its range also with Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca; at lower elevations Quercus spp., Alnus acuminata, Prunus serotina, and Arbutus spp. become more abundant. Shrubs are e.g. Vaccinium spp., Andromeda spp., Ribes spp., and Fuchsia spp.

This species has a very special ecological significance since it serves as the hibernation tree (in a very limited part of its range in south-central Mexico) for many millions of Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) yearly making one of the most spectacular displays in all of nature.

Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In Guatemala and Mexico the timber of this species is used for light indoor construction and general carpentry. Wholesale logging is unlikely to occur because this tree has traditional religious significance to Native Americans. With the conversion to (Roman Catholic) Christianity and hispanization of the populations of this part of Latin America these traditions were incorporated into the new modes of worship and at times of religious festivals churches are being decorated with the foliage of this fir.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Logging almost certainly has had a negative impact on this species in some areas, as has general deforestation that has occurred especially in Guatemala and southern Mexico. It is difficult to quantify this, but a conservative estimate would be a past reduction of 10% over three generations, or about a century. This species is present in some protected areas, but most of the population is outside such forest reserves.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is present in some protected areas, among which are national parks. Particular attention has been paid to some forests where Monarch Butterflies overwinter: these have been designated as the Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca. Illegal logging is a problem even within these areas.

Bibliography [top]

Brower, L., Castilleja, G., Peralta, A., Lopez-Garcia, J., Bojorquez-Tapia, L., Diaz, S., Melgarejo, D. and Missrie, M. 2002. Quantitative changes in forest quality in a principal overwintering area of the Monarch Butterfly in Mexico, 1971–1999. Conservation Biology 16: 346-359.

Farjon, A. 2010. Conifer Database (June 2008) In Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2010 Annual Checklist (Bisby F.A., Roskov Y.R., Orrell T.M., Nicolson D., Paglinawan L.E., Bailly N., Kirk P.M., Bourgoin T., Baillargeon G., eds). Reading, UK. Available at:

Farjon, A. 2010. A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.

IUCN. 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2013.1). Available at: (Accessed: 12 June 2013).

Oberhauser, K., Batalden, R. and Howard, R. 2009. Monarch Butterfly Monitoring in North America: Overview of Initiatives and Protocols. Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Montreal, Canada.

Citation: Farjon, A. 2013. Abies religiosa. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 29 August 2015.
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