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European silver fir (ESF)

Abies alba Mill.

Home Trees European silver fir (ESF)
Cone and foliage of Abies alba (the European silver fir)

Native range

Distribution is mainly limited to the mountainous regions of eastern, western, southern and central Europe. Evidence suggests isolated relict populations as ice-age refugia in northern, central and southern Italy to Calabria, the Balkans, the Pyrenees and potentially France.

Provenance Choice

Provenances from Calabria in southern Italy performed out-performed other provenances in UK and should be the first choice for planting throughout Britain. However, other provenances from across the rest of the natural range of European silver fir also performed well.

Site Requirements

Cold hardy throughout Britain but vulnerable to frost unless planted under shelter. Sensitive to exposure and is not drought tolerant. Grows well with an annual rainfall from 700 mm but will be most productive where rainfall is >1000 mm evenly distributed across the year.

Suited to soils of poor to medium nutrient status with fresh to moist soil moisture. Can grow on deep soils over limestone and other calcareous substrates. Does not tolerate very poor soils or heather competition and should not be planted on peats or very dry soils.

Further detail on the site requirements of European silver fir in current and future climates can be examined using the Forest Research Ecological Site Classification Decision Support System (ESC).

Pests and Pathogens

European silver fir can be infected by a wide variety of rust fungi in its native range, although few of them are of any practical importance. It is susceptible to Heterobasidion annosum (conifer root and butt rot), although it is likely to be most damaged by H. abietinum (the fir form of the pathogen) which is absent from Britain.

European silver fir may also suffer from aphid infestations such as silver fir woolly aphid (Dreyfusia nordmannianae) which causes shoot distortion, and balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae), which can cause dieback with severe infestations.

European silver fir is also affected by Neonectria canker of fir (Neonectria neomacrospora) but to what extent and the likely impact is still unclear. Neonectria is not a notifiable disease but it is of interest and any suspected cases can be reported via TreeAlert.


A species which could find an increasing role as a shade tolerant component of Continuous Cover Forestry stands.

European silver fir is categorised as a Plot-stage species. These are species which have not been planted on any significant scale but have demonstrated silvicultural characteristics in trial plots and have qualities suitable for forestry objectives to justify further testing and development.