T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Abies religiosa (Religious fir)

Kingdom:   Plantae
Division:    Pinophyta
Class:        Pinopsida
Order:       Pinales
Family:      Pinaceae
Genus:      Abies
Species:     A. religiosa
Binomial name: Abies religiosa
Synonyms: Abies colimensis, Abies glaucescens, Abies hirtella, Pinus hirtella, Pinus religiosa, Picea religiosa, Picea hirtella, Picea glaucescens
Common names: Religious fir, Sacred fir, Oyamel fir, Pinabete fir.

Abies religiosa is a fir native to the mountains of central and southern Mexico and western Guatemala. Its natural habitat is the high altitudes (2,100–4,100 metres) in the cloud forest with high rainfall and cool, humid summers and dry winters.
It is a medium-sized to large evergreen coniferous tree growing to 25–50 m tall with a trunk diameter of up to 2 metres. The leaves are needle-like, flattened, 1.5–3.5 cm long and 1.5 mm wide by 0.5 mm thick, dark green above, and with two blue-white bands of stomata below; the leaf apex is acute. The leaf arrangement is spiral on the shoot, but with each leaf variably twisted at the base so they lie flat to either side of and above the shoot, with none below the shoot. The shoots are reddish-brown, hairless or with scattered pubescences. The cones are 8–16 cm long and 4–6 cm broad, dark blue-purple before maturity; the scale bracts are purple or greenish, of moderate length, with the tips exposed in the closed cone. The winged seeds are released when the cones disintegrate at maturity about 7–9 months after pollination.
The species name 'religiosa" refers to its widespread use in Mexico to create decorations for use at religious festivals, especially Christmas.
Stands of Abies religiosa provide the preferred winter habitat for the colonies of Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) during their hibernation in Mexico.

Photographed at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth


 



The underside of a fallen branch.


 

The trunk.