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Abies lasiocarpa (subalpine fir)

This well-known denizen of the western mountains is fairly easily recognized by its flattened, short needles and its pale bark. As its common name suggests, subalpine fir is especially abundant in subalpine ecosystems, where it is usually paired with Engelmann spruce in "spruce-fir" forests. However, subalpine fir does appear at lower elevations, as well, with blue spruce, Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, and quaking aspen.

The bark of subalpine fir is initially nearly white, but it becomes light to medium gray over the years; the surface of the bark is smooth, aside from the numerous resin blisters. Cones are reddish purple to nearly black when developing on branches, but become brown and papery after maturity and often quickly disintegrate into piles of cone scales once the cones have fallen to the ground.

So many mushrooms are potentially found with subalpine fir that listing them approaches silliness. In high-elevation spruce-fir forests it is rarely if ever possible to determine whether a mycorrhizal mushroom is forming mycorrhizae exclusively with the spruce or the fir. However, spruce-fir mycorrhizal mushrooms are abundant in monsoon seasons, and some of the most frequently encountered include Albatrellus confluens, Amanita muscaria var. flavivolvata, Boletus rubriceps, Cortinarius elegantio-montanus, Cortinarius pinguis, Lactarius deliciosus var. areolatus, Sarcodon imbricatus, Sarcosphaera coronaria, and Tricholoma rapipes. A host of saprobes are also associated with subalpine fir, including Agaricus amicosus, Lepiota clypeolaria, and Porodaedalea pini—as well as fungi of uncertain trophic status, including Alloclavaria purpurea, Hygrophorus olivaceoalbus, and Hygrophorus pudorinus.

 

Range of Abies lasiocarpa

Abies lasiocarpa
trees are tall and narrow

 

Abies lasiocarpa
bark is whitish to gray, with resin blisters

 

Abies lasiocarpa
many subalpine firs are being lost to beetle kill


Abies lasiocarpa
needles are flattened, bright green, and under 2 inches long


Abies lasiocarpa
subalpine fir krummholz at high elevation

 

Abies lasiocarpa
young and mature cones


Abies lasiocarpa
subalpine ecosystem at about 10,000 feet, with subalpine fir and engelmann spruce




Kuo, Michael (April, 2021). Abies lasiocarpa (subalpine fir). Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.com website: www.mushroomexpert.com/trees/abies_lasiocarpa.html

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