Featured Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek / CC BY-SA 4.0
A field guide on how to identify and propagate Siberian Fir (Abies sibirica), a hardy tree that is native to Eastern Siberia.
How to Identify Siberian Fir (Abies sibirica)
Siberian fir needles are linear-shaped with entire margins (smooth). They grow on the stems in alternate arrangements.
The needles are flat, as opposed to spruce needles.
If you were to pluck one and try to roll it between your fingers, it would be difficult.
Spruce needles can be rolled easily, that’s a good way to differentiate them.
The bark of the tree is gray-green to gray-brown in color and has a smooth surface, which is typical of firs and is characterized by resin blisters.
The cones are cylindrical, about 2-3 cm thick and 5-9 cm long.
They are blue before they mature. The seeds have teeth-like edges on the scales, and the bract scales are hidden.
You can find them on the branches, standing upwards.
Cones begin to grow in the early summer and become mature by late summer to early autumn.
You can find Siberian fir growing naturally in the Kamchatka-Kurile, Sakhalin island, Okhotsk-Manchurian forests, through Siberia until the Russian Taiga.
It grows in large forests in cool and wet areas, on soils like alluvial and podzolic, and in mountains on well-drained, calcium-rich soil. It grows up to 2,000 meters in elevation.
Some other understory plants that associate with Siberian fir are:
- Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)
- Siberian Peashrub (Caragana arborescens)
- Red Currant (Ribes triste)
Siberian fir provides important habitat for various wildlife species in the Siberian taiga.
Its dense, evergreen needles provide cover and food for animals, such as deer and small mammals, as well as a source of food and nesting sites for birds.
In addition, its cones serve as an important food source for several species of wildlife, including squirrels, crossbills, and other seed-eating birds.
Overall, the Siberian fir plays a crucial role in supporting the biodiversity of the Siberian taiga ecosystem.
How to Propagate Siberian Fir (Abies sibirica)
Hardiness Zone: 1-6
Soil Type: Slightly acidic clay, loam, sand.
Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade
You can propagate Siberian fir with two methods:
- Stem Cuttings: Gives you established trees faster, but is more difficult and has a lower success rate.
- By Seed: Has a higher success rate but takes longer to grow into established saplings.
Most conifer trees require careful treatment and conditions to root cuttings from.
Seeds, on the other hand, are much more reliable and easy to grow.
For that reason, that’s what we’ll focus on.
Although if you’re really interested in taking stem cuttings, take a look at our propagation guide.
How to Propagate Siberian Fir (Abies sibirica) by Seed
It might not be easy to get your hands on Siberian fir seeds, unless you have some trees growing nearby.
If you do, it’s as easy as collecting the cones.
If you don’t you can order some online at Sheffields.
How to Harvest Seeds
Getting seeds yourself is all about timing.
You need to collect the cones when they are mature, but before they’ve opened up to release their seeds.
The best time to collect Siberian fir seeds is late summer to early fall. By that time, they will have matured enough and will still be closed.
To get the seeds inside, all you need to do is dry them.
When you dry them, the cones will naturally open and you’ll be able to knock the seeds out.
Tip: Place your cones in a brown paper bag, in a dry area, and they’ll open within a day or two.
Stratification & Sowing
To prepare Siberian fir seeds for planting, a process of cold stratification is recommended. The steps are as follows:
- Mix the seeds with a moist medium such as sand or peat moss, and put them in a labeled plastic bag.
- Put the bag in a freezer for 21 days.
- Remove the bag from the freezer and soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours to soften the outer layer.
- Put the bag back in the refrigerator for another 7 days.
- Keep an eye on the bag to make sure the medium remains moist.
- After the stratification period, plant the seeds in a well-draining soil mix and water regularly until they sprout.
It should take about a week for seeds to germinate.
Q: What is Siberian fir good for?
A: The scent of Siberian Fir has a fresh, pine-like fragrance that helps calm nerves, reduce stress, and relieve muscle aches. The essential oil is extracted through steam distillation from the aromatic evergreen trees found in the secluded forests of Siberia.
Q: What is the difference between Douglas fir and Siberian fir?
A: The Douglas Fir has a bright, citrus-like scent, while White Fir has a light and airy pine aroma. On the other hand, Siberian Fir has a strong and sharp pine scent. Despite differences in their fragrance, all three fir oils offer similar benefits due to their similar chemical diversity.
Q: Is Siberian fir good for the skin?
A: The predominant chemical in Siberian Fir essential oil is bornyl acetate, which gives it its soothing properties. This makes it a great addition to massage oils for its skin-comforting benefits.
Q: Is fir toxic to humans?
A: Yes, mildly toxic. Fir trees contain harmful chemicals and can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested by animals. The oils derived from these trees can also be toxic if consumed.