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Silver Fir

The mountains, I become part of it.
The herbs, the fir tree, I become part of it.
The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering waters, I become part of it.
The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen, I become part of it.
Navaho Chant


A dry spot a little way back from the margin of a Silver Fir lily garden makes a glorious campground, especially where the slope is toward the east and opens a view of the distant peaks along the summit of the range. The tall lilies are brought forward in all their glory by the light of your blazing camp-fire, relieved against the outer darkness, and the nearest of the trees with their whorled branches tower above you like larger lilies, and the sky seen through the garden opening seems one vast meadow of white lily stars.

Dear Friends,

In the coming months I will be featuring a series of simple monographs containing botanical descriptions,links to images, olfactory descriptions, basic gc analysis, etc of a selection of oils. These are not going to be as in depth as some of the other newsletters that I have done but should provide some useful information to you. I will continue to work on some more in depth newsletters(distillation newsletter approaching completion) but will now add these less complex monographs. Also please note that I have recently updated the wholesale section of my web site which includes many new oils from Ethiopia and South Africa.

Abies Alba/European Silver Fir Description
(The somewhat complex botanical terminology can be better understood when viewing a detailed image of the plant, links for which are given below)

Tree: Tree up to 45-55 m. tall and 200-260 cm dbh, with a long clear bole surmounted by a pyramidal crown that becomes flat-topped with age (1). Bark: Smooth, gray, scaly, with resin blisters (1).
Branches: Grooved, pale brown or dull gray with a blackish pubescence (1). Shoots:
Leaves: Shade foliage 2-ranked, spreading horizontally; foliage in sun more or less erect. Needle base twisted, apex notched or rounded; 15-30 ? 1.5-2 mm; upper surface dark shiny green and grooved, usually lacking stomata; lower surface glaucous to whitish-green, keeled , with stomata in 5-8 ranks. Buds pale brown to reddish-brown, ovoidwith an obtuse apex, sometimes resinous, diameter 8-11 mm, slightly pubescent (1).
Cones: Cylindrical, attenuate at the ends, 10-16 ? 3-5 cm, green when young, turning red-brown (1).
Cone scales: Spathulate, finely pubescent with exserted, reflexed bracts extending about 2/3 the length of the scale(1).
Pollen cones: Blue/violet/red, 1-3 cm long (1).
Seeds: Obovoid, reddish, winged, up to 2.5 cm long (1).

Habitat Native to the mountains of southern and central Europe east to Ukraine's Karpaty Mountains. It is also found in Byelorussia, Asia and the Caucasus Mountains; prefers fresh, moist soils in higher altitudes. http://www.borealforest.org/world/trees/silver_fir.htm http://iufro.boku.ac.at/iufro/iufronet/d1/wu10516/pu10516.htm
more specific distribution notes

superb botanical drawing
nice image

Edible Uses
Inner bark - cooked. It is dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread[105, 177].

Other Uses . An oleo-resin is obtained from blister-like swellings in the bark[64, 100]. It is harvested in the summer and used fresh, dried or distilled for oil[238]. The resin extracted from it is used in perfumery and for caulking ships[46, 61, 64, 100]. It is called 'Strasburg Turpentine'[46]. Oil of turpentine is an important solvent in the paint industry[238]. The residue, known as 'rosin oil', is used in making varnishes, lacquers and carbon black(for pigments and ink)[238]. Resin is tapped from trees about 60 - 80 years old in the spring and used for the distillation of oil[238]. An essential oil obtained from the leaves is used as a disinfectant and also in perfumery[46, 61]. It is a common ingredient in many bath products, giving them their familiar pine scent[7]. The bark is a source of tannin[7]. Wood - light, soft, durable, elastic. The timber of this tree is especially sought after for its lightness, it is used for construction, furniture, boxes, pulpetc[7, 46, 61, 89, 101].

Essential Oil
Undoubtedly many of you have had the opportunity to explore a number of samples of an oil distilled or extracted from the same genus and species of aromatic plant. It is one of the finest ways to educate oneself from an olfactory standpoint. A number of years ago I was given a sample of European Silver Fir the memory of which never left me. It was so beautiful, fresh, delicate and ethereal. After that I procured several samples of oils that were reputedly distilled from the same plant. They did not have the same complex heady nature that I had experienced with that first sample and in some cases were somewhat flat. It became apparent to me through this experience that both the raw aromatic material and the distilling technique must be of a high order to produce a really wonderful oil. So finally after much searching a nice Silver Fir Essential Oil has been located which is grown organically in France and captures the beauty of the sample I smelled several years back.Oil is distilled from needles alone or from twigs with needles.
Physical characteristics: colorless or pale yellow mobile liquid
Olfactory characteristics: fresh, delicate sweet fruity-balsamic, heady topnote. A delightful green incense-resinous bouqet is the harmonius chord upon which the top note rests. As the dryout progresses, the topnote becomes less pronounced and the resinous heartnote comes to the forefront. But even in the later stages of the dryout one can detect a beautiful sweet fruity herbaceous note. The entire oil is a soft, delicate, refined expression of the conifer family of oils. Perfumery uses: bath refreshners, air-freshners, disinfectants, fougere colognes, soap perfumes, detergents Has good stability with and performance in compositions of above types Blends excellenty with galbanum, labdanum, lavindin, oakmoss, rosemary

Abies alba/European Silver Fir EcoCert Organic Essential Oil GC Analysis

(Please note. An analysis can seldom if ever reveal the full complexity of any essential oil, even the most common. There are present in all oils trace components in parts per thousand and even less, that have a definite effect on the beauty and complexity of any specific oil. The identified components are a helping factor in establishing the overall virtues of an oil but are not the end all and be all of its composition. But I am enclosing basic compositions for those who love this subject) a-pinene- 14.60%
camphene- 12.90%
b-pinene- 1.50%
myrcene- 1.60%
limonene- 50.40%
terpinolene- 0.40%
bornylacetate- 2.60%
betacaryophyllene- 2.00%
terpene 4-ol- 1.30%
a-humulene- 0.80%
b-candinene- 0.70%


Silver Fir Cones

A Story from The Hartz Mountains, Germany
Retold by Sheryl Ann Karas

Once upon a time a miner who had a wife and seven children was confined to his bed with a terrible illness. They were a poor family. As days went by and the man did not recover, there was soon no meat in the cupboard or fire on the hearth.

The miner's wife was getting desperate and finally told her husband that she would go into the woods on the hill of Hubinchenstein to gather fir cones. "With some fir cones I could make a fire and perhaps I could sell the others to buy meat," she said.

She took a large basket and climbed the hill into the deep dark forest. As she walked and gathered she thought about her troubles until at last they overcame her. She sat down on a tree stump weeping.

"What is the matter with you and why are you stealing my fir cones?" said a voice right beside her.

The woman jumped up with fright and saw a frowning dwarf with a long white beard standing before her. She fell to her knees to beg forgiveness and blurted out her sad story.

The dwarf's expression softened with kindness. "Please get up, my good woman. Troubles come to us all. But you must leave these fir cones here as they belong to me. Go into the next forest. The fir cones you pick up over there will suit you much better."

So the woman replaced the fir cones she had gathered and went to the next forest as the dwarf had instructed. It was a long way. By time she got there she was very tired and needed to set her basket down to rest a bit. As soon as she did fir cones fell like hail out of the trees and filled her basket.

She was frightened and ran home as fast as she could. On the way the basket grew heavier and heavier until, just as she reached her door, she could hold on to it no longer and she dropped it, spilling its contents on the ground.

Then she saw why the basket was so heavy. Every one of the fir cones had turned to silver.

At first she thought the little man must have been Satan, but after talking with her husband she realized he was Gubich, King of the Dwarfs and helper of the poor. She went into town and sold some of the fir cones and returned with everything her family needed. Although her husband was sick and could not eat they all went to bed with happy hearts.

The next day the woman went back into the forest. She found Gubich near the same tree stump and poured out her thanks to him. "Thank me no thanks, my good woman!" he laughed. "I am happy to be of service."

He stooped to pick a plant from the ground and gave it to her. "Take this home and strip it of its leaves. Put the leaves in a pot and boil them. When the water turns green give it to your husband to drink." And then he disappeared.

The woman was still a little afraid to follow the dwarf's advice. "What if he really is Satan? This might be poison." she thought. But when she returned home her husband was worse and seemed close to death. "I must trust that the dwarf is good."

She boiled the leaves of the plant into a green tea and gave it to her husband to drink. Almost immediately color came back to his cheeks and strength flowed through his body. He leaped out of bed a well man.

They had enough fir cones to never want again in times of trouble. They never saw Gubich again but thanked him in their hearts daily and kept one of the silver fir cones on the dresser to remember him by. The children kept the silver cone when they were older and their children kept it after them.

The people of the same region of the Hartz Mountains keep a silver fir cone in their dressers to this day as a reminder of the kindness of Gubich, the King of the Dwarfs.


"Silver Fir Cones" comes from a time when the old earth-based religions had all but vanished except in fairy tales. There's something very subversive about stories like this. While on the surface it would appear that Europe had been converted to Christianity, children were (and are) still indoctrinated into the old ways through the stories that were told in private.

Story source:

Source: This story is adapted from Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits and Plants in All Ages and In All Climes by Charles M. Skinner, Lippincott, 1911,1925. It appears in The Solstice Evergreen: The History, Folklore and Origins of the Christmas Tree by Sheryl Ann Karas. Aslan Publishing, Boulder Creek, Co, 1991. Posted here with permission of the author. Purchasing information available at

Sheryl Karas is a writer, artist, counselor and healer. She holds a B.A. in Communications and an M.A. In Transpersonal Psychology and has a special interest in sharing empowering information on a wide variety of topics. More information available at: