Herbs & Plants

Abies religiosa

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Botanical Name: Abies religiosa
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Abies
Species: A. religiosa
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales

Synonyms : Abies hirtella – (Kunth.)Lindl.,  Pinus religiosa – Kunth.
Common Names: Sacred fir, oyamel [Nahuatl], pinabete [Spanish].
Genus :  Abies

Habitat  : South-western N. America – Mexico .  Mountains of N.W. Mexico at elevations of 2400 – 3000 metres.

Description: An evergreen Tree growing to 40m at a fast rate.  It is hardy to zone 8. It is in leaf all year, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are  pollinated by Wind.

Trees to 40(-60) m tall and 200 cm dbh with a single, straight, round trunk and a pyramidal or conical crown  First-order branches long, slender, ascending, later becoming horizontal to pendant. Bark smooth, gray-white, becoming dark grey-brown, deeply fissured, breaking into small plates. Branchlets slender, red-brown to purple-red, irregularly grooved, glabrous or slightly pubescent, with circular leaf scars. Leaves spirally arranged, pectinate, slightly assurgent, (1-)1.5-3(-3.5) cm × 1.2-1.6 mm, linear, twisted at base, grooved above, stomata only on underside, in two white bands separated by a midrib; upper surface shiny dark green, lower surface lighter with whitish stomatal bands; 2 smallish marginal resin canals. Pollen cones lateral, ±pendulous, 10-15 mm long with red microsporophylls. Seed cones erect, lateral(-subterminal) on a short, often curved peduncle, ovoid-oblong to cylindrical, sometimes curved, obtuse, (8-)10-16 × 4-6 cm, violet-blue with yellow bracts, darkening with age to a purple-brown with brown bracts; rachis persistent, dark brown. Seed scales cuneate, a mid-cone measuring 2-3 × 3-3.5 cm, smooth, puberulent, outer margin rounded, entire. Bract scales spathulate, tapering, 3-3.5 cm long, exserted, reflexed. Seeds 10 × 5 mm, shiny brown with a cuneate brown wing 10-15 mm long (Farjon 1990).

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. The plant
prefers acid and neutral soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade.
It requires moist soil.

Cultivation :
Prefers a good moist but not water-logged soil. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Plants are very shade tolerant,
especially when young, but growth is slower in dense shade. Intolerant of atmospheric pollution. Prefers slightly
acid conditions down to a pH of about 5. Prefers growing on a north-facing slope. Requires a sheltered position,
trees are susceptible to wind damage. Trees are tender in most parts of Britain, they tolerate temperatures down to
about -5 to -10°c. There are trees in Kent and Hampshire that are 12 metres tall. Grows best in the Perthshire
valleys of Scotland and other areas with cool wet summers. Growth from young trees has proved to be very vigorous in

Britain, 60cm in its first year has been recorded and 70 cm in its third year from seed. New growth takes place mainly between July and October. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm in height. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years.

This also badly affects root development and wind resistance. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed
usually grows poorly. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus.

Seed – sow early February in a greenhouse or outdoors in March. Germination is often poor, usually taking about
6 – 8 weeks . Stratification is said to produce a more even germination so it is probably best to sow the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn . The seed remains viable for up to 5 years if it is well store. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on for at least their first winter in pots. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Alternatively, if you have sufficient seed, it is possible to sow in an outdoor seedbed. One report says that it is best to grow the seedlings on in the shade at a density of about 550 plants per square metre whilst another report says that they are best grown on in a sunny position

Medicinal Uses:

Balsamic: A healing and soothing agent

Other Uses
Paint; Wood.

An oleo-resin is obtained from the tree (probably from the trunk). It is balsamic and is used in medicines and in paints . Wood – light, soft, not very durable. Used for pulp, construction, furniture etc.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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