July 08, 2020

Does Utah Have Native Fir Trees?

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On a recent rafting trip the guide said a good river trip is one full of interesting facts he can relate to guests, so his interest was peaked with a TreeUtah staff member on board. While TreeUtah does have a knowledgeable arborist on staff, that days staff member was not it, but luckily still had few great tree facts that would interest any river explorer. The question was posed as to what alpine trees were dotting the canyon we were gliding through between rapids, this is where a little Utah tree knowledge came into play!

You may be surprised to learn that Utah is home to only two true native firs, Subalpine and White Firs. Subalpine fir is native in high elevations and likes cool, moist sites. The blue green needles have distinct balsam scent. Try rubbing the needles between your fingers and take that fragrant scent in! Look for narrow cones, crowns in dark purple. This species is under threat from a tiny insect that is killing them off in a short period in as little as two years. Research is being done on this on why and how to protect firs.

White firs are sometimes confused with Blue Spruce due to the blue-green color and is also known as Concolor Fir (all one color). White fir live up to 300 years. These trees are also popular Christmas Trees and can be found in many mountain ranges including California, Oregon, Wyoming and of course Utah. White fir have a special trait to maintain lower limbs which are good for climbing and make a good escape route for all sorts of wildlife.

Spruce-fir is the fourth most common coniferous forest type in Utah. The majority of spruce found in Utah is Engelmann spruce and Blue spruce, valued as good timber.

The next time you are out Utah's canyons take some time observe the trees around you. Are they native? What role or function does the tree play? Do the trees look healthy and natural? What animals might use the tree and how? How many varieties are there?

The more we stop to look around, learn about and become aware of our surrounding nature the more we can do to protect what we see and teach others to do the same.