No. 3: The Grand Fir

The Real Thing

Grand fir, Abies grandis

Upper Surface

wide green pine needles


wide pale-green pine needles

This is a "true" fir—Abies (AYE-bees, Latin for "silver fir") grandis (GRAND-iss, "grand"), commonly called "grand fir," or "lowland white fir."

Lewis remarked on it (February 6, 1806) as:

a species of fir which one of my men informs me is precisely the same with that called the balsam fir of Canada. It grows here to considerable size, being from 2-1/2 to 4 feet in diameter and rises to the hight of eighty or an hundred feet. . . . This tree affords considerable quantities of a fine clear aromatic balsam in appearance and taste like the Canadian balsam.

In fact, grand firs 5 feet in diameter and 200 feet high are fairly common west of the Cascade Range. Balsam, or balm, is an aromatic resin that in Biblical times was believed to have potent medicinal properties.



Stephen F. Arno, Northwest Trees (Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1977), pp. 92-97.

Elbert Little, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Western Region (New York: Knopf, 1980), plate 39; p. 252.