Herb: Subalpine Fir
Latin name: Abies lasiocarpa
Synonyms: Abies subalpina, Pinus lasiocarpa
Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)
Medicinal use of Subalpine Fir:Antiseptic. The gummy exudate that appears on the bark was soaked in water until soft and then applied to wounds. An infusion of the resin has been used as an emetic to cleanse the insides. The resin has also been chewed to treat bad breath. A decoction of the bark is used as a tonic and in the treatment of colds and flu. A poultice of the leaves has been used to treat chest colds and fevers. An infusion has been taken to treat the coughing up of blood, which can be the first sign of TB, and as a laxative.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Often found in poor and rocky soils, it is rarely seen below 600 metres. It grows in forests right up to the timber line where it is no more than a shrub on exposed slopes at high altitudes.
Edible parts of Subalpine Fir:The shoot tips are used as a tea substitute. The cones can be ground into a fine powder, then mixed with fat and used as a confection. It is said to be a delicacy and an aid to the digestion. The resin from the trunk is used as a chewing gum. It is said to treat bad breath. Inner bark. No more information is given, but inner bark is often dried, ground into a powder and then used with cereal flours when making bread etc. Seeds. No more information is given, but the seeds are very small and fiddly to use. Seeds of this genus are generally oily with a resinous flavour and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Other uses of the herb:The fragrant young leaves and twigs are used to repel moths or are burnt as an incense. They were also ground into a powder and used to make a baby powder and perfumes. A gum is obtained from the bark. It is antiseptic and was chewed by the N. American Indians in order to clean the teeth. It was also used to plug holes in canoes. An infusion of the leaves is used as a hair tonic. The leaves can also be placed in the shoes as a foot deodorant. Wood - light, soft, not strong. It is little used except as a fuel and for pulp. The native North American Indians used it for making chairs and insect-proof storage boxes. It was also used as a fuel and was said to burn for a long time.
Propagation of Subalpine Fir: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 stored. 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.
Cultivation of the herb:Often found in poor and rocky soils, it is rarely seen below 600 metres. It grows in forests right up to the timber line where it is no more than a shrub on exposed slopes at high altitudes.
Known hazards of Abies lasiocarpa:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.