Abies Lasiocarpa Progression #1

This is one of several Subalpine firs that I collected in spring of 2018. It was in a very difficult to reach spot growing in a layer of duff on the bare rock:

Four cuts with pruning saw and it was out with a dense mat of roots that was about as good as you can get:

Here’s the root ball after unpacking it at home:

Like most Abies that I find, it had a major adelgid infestation. If you look closely at the buds, you can see they are elongated and grey.

It went straight into a bonsai pot using pure pumice as the soil. It colored up nicely that first spring but pushed only about 1/5 of it’s buds that spring due to the adelgid infestation.

After treating with a soil drench of Bayer tree an shrub and spraying a couple times in May, the adelgids are nowhere to be seen and it pushed a ton of buds this spring. The previously grey tips are now starting to build new buds for next year and there is back-budding like crazy.

I did some basic styling early spring 2019 with some rebar and guy wires and some branch wiring this late summer. It still needs some work, in particular I want to reduce or possibly remove the lowest branch and make the branch above it the defining branch as well as shorten the 2nd apex. I’d like to keep the multi-apex design as this is how I typically see them growing in the wild (many apex’s at drastically different heights, unlike mountain hemlock which often will have several similarly high apex’s sprouting from the same base).

Here it is today:


Looking good! Love the subalpine fir


How about reducing both long left branches by about 1/4 and wire so not the same length by adding movement?

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I like this current form. Assemetry… tension…
Give the tree a year to recover. Then maybe reduce, or just wire / bend the two limbs shorter.
Is the short trunk in front of the design? (Shaded?) Cool.

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The tree is kicking ass in terms of vigor. It’s even starting to push up out of the pot after about a year and half. I know it looks more sparse than the collection photos but it’s only because it was whorl’d like crazy so I reduced those to two.

The photo’s make it hard to see the 3Dness of the tree. The top long branch is actually going way forward and the bottom one is way back. They are already wired but thick long branches on a subalpine fir like this split lengthwise easily when twisted so I couldn’t be very extreme (and I accidentally split the bottom branch already…that lowest pad may not make it anyways). I’m leaving them long for now just to get more backbuds up the branches. Next year I’ll figure out what to do with them based on what happens this fall/spring.

The two lower apexes are on the front of the tree and don’t get shaded because of the location of the upper branch.

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Hi Ben,

Amazing looking tree, I love the Abies Lasiocarpa, and what you did with this one is inspiring! Thank you for sharing! I have tons of questions regarding how to go about getting a permit to collect one of those.

I have seen many of those recently on a hike, see my post here.

Quick question, if I google “abies lasiocarpa”, non or very few of the trees I find there look like the ones in your and my pictures. They don’t look weathered, scruffy, and don’t have character. They all look like Colorado Blue Spruce, or beautifully manicured Christmas trees. Is this due to the completely different growing conditions of nursery trees compared with the growing conditions of trees in the the wild? If I were to grow abies lasiocarpa in my yard, would they look like Christmas trees or would they look more like your tree?

Best regards,

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The ones I’ve seen in peoples yards tend to get large pretty quickly and have that tall/thin symmetrical form. In nature, they are fairly short lived compared to Junipers or pines. Although this one looks old, my guess is it isn’t older than around 40 years. To find ones like this, just keep going up in elevation or find somewhere that has bare rock that stunts them. Permits can easily be obtained from the forest service (both free and paid)…but they are not available in all areas so call ahead to the local forest service office.

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Note: My alpine Fir responded crazy well to biogold…

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Awesome tree, keep the asymetry on the left. Keep it looking like a tree, not a Bonsai. Possible slam candidate in the future.

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