Abies fraseri 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Pinopsida Pinales Pinaceae

Scientific Name: Abies fraseri
Species Authority: (Pursh) Poir.
Common Name(s):
English Fraser's Fir, Fraser Fir, She Balsam
Pinus fraseri Pursh
Taxonomic Source(s): Farjon, A. 2010. A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B2ab(ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2011-05-11
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P. & Stritch, L.
The decline of the population due to an alien pathogen (insect) since the 1960s has been very substantial and is apparently ongoing, probably at a slower rate than initially. Its area of occupancy when calculated on a fairly comprehensive set of herbarium specimen based localities (some may now be dead trees only) even when using a grid size of 4×4 km per locality (22 collections = 16 localities) remains well under 500 km² (the threshold for Endangered) and with a continuing decline this species meets the B2 criterion for Endangered.
Previously published Red List assessments:
1998 Vulnerable (VU)
1998 Vulnerable (V)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Endemic to the USA where it occurs in western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and SW Virginia (Appalachian Mts.).
Countries occurrence:
United States (North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia)
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2: 256
Lower elevation limit (metres): 1200
Upper elevation limit (metres): 2038
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Small subpopulations are known from six peaks, including the Smoky Mountains National Park.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: On the highest slopes and summits of the Appalachian Mountains, between 1,200 m and 2,038 m a.s.l., usually best developed on north-facing slopes. The soils are commonly podzolized and moderately acid. The climate is humid, with cool summers and cold winters with heavy snowfall, annual precipitation varies between 850 mm and 2,000 mm. Fraser Fir occurs in scattered populations, sometimes pure at the highest elevations, but more often mixed with Picea rubens and Betula papyrifera above 1,500 m, at lower elevations also with Tsuga caroliniana, Betula alleghaniensis, Sorbus americana, Acer saccharum and Fraxinus caroliniana. Ericaceae and various herbs are common in the understorey, often thick moss carpets (Hylocomium splendens) cover the forest floor.
Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Generation Length (years): 30

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The remaining stands of Fraser Fir have very limited commercial value as timber trees. The most important use is growing this species for Christmas trees; it is considered the best conifer available in the US for this purpose. It has a natural 'Christmas tree shape' and retains its fragrant, dark green leaves well for this indoor use. It is also widely used as an ornamental tree for gardens with several cultivars named. At least in the UK it does not usually have a very long life as a garden tree

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The disjunct subpopulations of this fir, restricted to the mountain tops and their north-facing slopes of the southern Appalachians, are susceptible to destruction by windfall and fire. However, by far the most damaging agent is an insect, the Balsam Woolly Adelgid (Adelges piceae) discovered in 1957 in Abies fraseri on Mt. Mitchell. This alien pest has spread quickly to all subpopulations causing massive dieback through impairment of translocation flow in the cambium. Millions of trees had died by the 1980s and only one substantial population (Mt. Rogers, Virginia) remained largely unaffected (Beck 1990). After massive die-back competitors such as Picea rubra and Betula sp. can take over dominance in several locations in North Carolina (DeSelm and Boner 1984).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Methods to control this introduced insect are still being researched but none have been fully effective; some small scale protection can be provided by chemical insecticides. The latter strategy is very costly and is only used in plantations for Christmas trees and in some high profile recreation areas. In some stands that have died, there is massive seedling recruitment, and some of these seem to go through new infestations only partially damaged. It is hoped that eventually resistance may build up from these individuals.

Citation: Farjon, A. 2013. Abies fraseri. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T32101A2810241. . Downloaded on 28 November 2015.
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