CPC Plant Profile: Bristlecone Fir
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Plant Profile

Bristlecone Fir (Abies bracteata)

Photo Credit: Evan P Meyer
Description
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Pinaceae
  • State: CA
  • Nature Serve ID: 138821
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 10/05/2017

Also known as the Bristlecone Fir or the Santa Lucia Fir, Abies bracteata is a evergreen, coniferous fir native to the rocky slopes along the Santa Lucia Mountains. Abies bracteata is slim and down facing with stiff, sharp, needle-like leaves arranged in a spiral formation. They grow to about 150-180 ft tall and prefer cool, partially shady climates. Unlike most firs, the cones they develop in the spring are long, rounded, and covered in yellow-brown bristles. By autumn, the hardened cones gradually break down to disperse their winged seeds. Abies bracteata endangered status is due to it also being an endemic plant species meaning that it can only be found in the central California coastline where the Santa Lucia Mountains are located.

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 10/13/2020
  • Living Collection

RSABG is propagating a small number of individuals from each maternal line for their own living collection and also to distribute to other botanic gardens. (Birker et al. 2018)

  • 10/13/2020
  • Seed Collection

Abies bracteata has undergone a long history of unsuccessful seed collection attempts even as early as the 1840's. Challenges to seed collection include the fact that this particular species is a mast seeder requiring conditions to be ideal, high level of seed predation, populations grow on rugged terrain and this species produces cones only at the very top of the trees. Funds were actually awarded to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden back in 2014 but collection efforts were thwarted due to low cone set and high levels of seed predation observed. In 2015, cones were collected from 10 trees but all found to be aborted. In 2016, wildfires burning in the area caused road closures so populations were not accessible. In 2017, Cheryl S. Birker and colleagues accomplished the first successful seed collection for Abies Bracteata and have now established a small conservation seed collection at RSABG. A backup seed collection will be sent to NLGRP. RSABG is propagating a small number of individuals from each maternal line for their own living collection and also to distribute to other botanic gardens. (Birker et al. 2018)

  • 10/13/2020
  • Propagation Research

RSABG is propagating a small number of individuals from each maternal line for their own living collection and also to distribute to other botanic gardens. (Birker et al. 2018)

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, California Botanic Garden holds 1 accessions of Abies bracteata in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 648 seeds of this species in their collection - although some may have been used for curation testing or sent to back up.

  • 08/05/2020
  • Seed Collection

Based on an August 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, California Botanic Garden has collected 1 seed accessions of Abies bracteata from 1 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass 3 maternal plants

Elvia Ryan
  • 08/12/2018

A backup seed collection will be sent to NLGRP.  RSABG is propagating a small number of individuals from each maternal line for their own living collection and also to distribute to other botanic gardens.  (Birker et al. 2018)

Elvia Ryan
  • 07/20/2018

Abies bracteata has undergone a long history of unsuccessful seed collection attempts even as early as the 1840's. Challenges to seed collection include the fact that this particular species is a mast seeder requiring conditions to be ideal, high level of seed predation, populations grow on rugged terrain and this species produces cones only at the very top of the trees. Funds were actually awarded to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden back in 2014 but collection efforts were thwarted due to low cone set and high levels of seed predation observed. In 2015, cones were collected from 10 trees but all found to be aborted. In 2016, wildfires burning in the area caused road closures so populations were not accessible. In 2017, Cheryl S. Birker and colleagues accomplished the first successful seed collection for Abies Bracteata and have now established a small conservation seed collection at RSABG.  A backup seed collection will be sent to NLGRP.  RSABG is propagating a small number of individuals from each maternal line for their own living collection and also to distribute to other botanic gardens.  (Birker et al. 2018)

Elvia Ryan
  • 07/20/2018

As of May 2018, Abies Bracteata is Imperiled/Vulnerable on both a global and state level (G2G3, S2S3).  (Birker et al. 2018)

MORE
Katie Heineman 04/19/2019

For California Plant Rescue, we are conducting a gap analysis of the conservation collections of California native plants by compiling the "living collections" and seed accessions of six botanic gardens. There are a few instances where living collections clearly represent intentional, population level conservation collections at a single institution. However, there are also a several instance of multiple institution having different, wild provenanced accessions of the same species (Quercus dumosa, Abies bracteata, several species of Arctostaphylos). Is it useful to designate these meta-collections as a conservation collection for gap analysis purposes? Or is it not a true conservation collection if the individuals are not from the same population?

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Nomenclature
Taxon Abies bracteata
Authority (D. Don) D. Don ex Poit.
Family Pinaceae
CPC Number 79040
ITIS 181825
USDA ABBR
Common Names Santa Lucia Fir | Silver Fir | Bristlecone Fir
Associated Scientific Names Pinus bracteata | Abies venusta | Pinus venusta | Abies bracteata | Picea bracteata
Distribution Abies bracteata is found in the Santa Lucia Mountains on the central California coast, primarily in Monterrey and San Luis Obispo counties. There are also specimens reported from Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Alameda counties.
State Rank
State State Rank
California S2
Habitat

Abies bracteata occurs both on steep rocky slopes, where fuel cannot accumulate, and in canyon bottoms, where there is an abundance of moisture. This species is thin-barked and highly susceptible to damage by fire.

Ecological Relationships

This endangered tree species is typically growing in mixed evergreen forests or oak communities among native plant species such as coast redwoods, sugar pines, and ponderosa pines.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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