Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Abies bracteata


SPECIES: Abies bracteata
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Sullivan, Janet. 1993. Abies bracteata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : ABIBRA SYNONYMS : Abies bracteata D. Don ex Poiteau [20,21] Abies venusta (Dougl.) K. Koch [6,20] SCS PLANT CODE : ABBR COMMON NAMES : bristlecone fir Santa Lucia fir silver fir TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for bristlecone fir is Abies bracteata (D. Don) Nutt., [34], the sole member of the subgenus Pseudotorreya (all other firs belong to subgenus Abies) [4]. There are conflicting views as to the proper authority assignation [5]. LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : The California Native Plant Society has placed bristlecone fir on its watch list because of the tree's limited distribution [25].


SPECIES: Abies bracteata
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Bristlecone fir is restricted to the Santa Lucia Mountains of the central California coast in Monterey County, and possibly in extreme northwestern San Luis Obispo County. The San Luis Obispo County population was not found after a fire occurred in the area [6,20]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES28 Western hardwoods STATES : CA BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 3 Southern Pacific Border KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K005 Mixed conifer forest K030 California oakwoods SAF COVER TYPES : 234 Douglas-fir - tanoak - Pacific madrone 249 Canyon live oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Bristlecone fir occurs in the mixed evergreen forest of the Santa Lucia Range. This foreset is consideres as (Quercus agrifolia), canyon live oak (Q. chrysolepis), California black oak (Q. kelloggii), (Q. wislizenii), and tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflorus). Mature stands of bristlecone fir are almost restricted to the canyon live oak phase of the mixed evergreen forest [27]. Bristlecone fir also occurs with sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), tanoak, Pacific ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa), and incense-cedar (Liboocedrus decurrens) [1].


SPECIES: Abies bracteata
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Bristlecone fir has no commercial timber value; populations are too small and inaccessible. It does not, however, appear to have any legal protection from cutting. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Bristlecone fir is rare but found in sufficient numbers and distributed widely enough that potential for extinction is low at this time [25]. The Pacific Southwest Station of the United States Forest Service is researching bristlecone fir genetics and population viability [32].


SPECIES: Abies bracteata
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Bristlecone fir is a native, evergreen, medium-sized tree. Mature height ranges from 30 to 100 feet (9-30 m) [21]. Average heights at 100 years of age were reported as 40, 70, and 90 feet (12, 21, and 27 m) for summit, transition, and ravine sites, respectively [27]. Bristlecone fir is easily distinguished by a dense branching pattern that begins near the ground and terminates in a tall, narrow point [6,21]. Branches tend to decline or droop [21]. Mature ovulate cones are 3 to 4 inches (7.6-10.1 cm) long and have long, needle-like points (0.78 to 1.57 inches [2-4 cm]) on the ends of the scale bracts, giving the cone a frilled or bristled appearance [1,6]. The needles are flat, stiff, and 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm) long [21,22]. The bark of mature stems is smooth to slightly fissured and broken into appressed scales [21]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Large crops of bristlecone fir cones are produced every 3 to 5 years [6,33]. Seeds are parasitized by seed chalcids (wasps). Up to 100 percent of the total bristlecone fir seed crop is parasitized some years, but occasional large cone crops exceed the parasitization capacity of the chalcids. A large cone crop in 1971 resulted in viable seed production in 1973 [27]. The winged seeds are chiefly dispersed by wind [33]. In a greenhouse study, 80 percent of viable bristlecone fir seeds germinated under a 5 degrees Fahrenheit (3 deg C) diurnal temperature range. Above 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit (23 deg C), however, germination rates decline. After-ripening, cool, and/or moist treatments are not required for germination [27]. Bristlecone fir seedlings are sensitive to drought. Repeated desiccation and high surface temperatures were probably reponsible for the 1974 absence of bristlecone fir seed germination on chaparral, grassland, and summit sites despite the good cone crop of the previous fall. During that time, drought resulted in mortality of first year seedlings on all sites except very near the coast and on new (created after 1970) burns [27]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Bristlecone fir occurs in windswept canyons on steep, rocky, or gravelly sites at elevations ranging from 690 to 5,164 feet (210-1,571 m). The average slope of bristlecone fir sites ranges from 35 to 40 degrees; adjacent forests have an average slope of 25 degrees [27]. Average annual precipitation is between 35 and 40 inches (998-1,000 mm) at around 4,000 feet (1,216 m) in the Santa Lucia Mountains [25,27]. Less than 2 percent of annual precipitation falls between June 1 and September 30 [27]. The confinement of bristlecone fir to the Santa Lucia Mountains and its absence from the Sierra Nevada are consistent with the species' apparent requirement for a mild climate and low summer evaporation rates [1]. Bristlecone fir occurs on soils derived from ultrabasic rocks but is not limited to them [24]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Bristlecone fir height growth is correlated with the amount of light striking the forest floor. Summer light levels below 30 langleys per day are limiting to sapling growth [27]. Bristlecone fir groves are probably climax on steep slopes. Bristlecone fir is a member of canyon live oak communities, which are climax woodlands on steep slopes in the Santa Lucia Mountains. Fire in canyon live oak woodlands can cause internal shifts in species composition, but the area occupied by the plant community usually does not change. Repeated burning may convert open canyon live oak stands to chaparral, but the community will again succeed to canyon live oak with long fire-free intervals [7]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Staminate cones shed pollen in May. Ovulate cones mature in late August of the same year, shedding bracts and seeds in September [6].


SPECIES: Abies bracteata
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Bristlecone fir is concentrated on steep, rocky, fire-resistant sites [13]. Bristlecone fir occurs on sites that have experienced fire less frequently than the surrounding forests [27]. The presettlement fire history of the Santa Lucia Mountains is not well known. Data for fires during the Native American (11,000 years BP-1792 A.D.) and the Spanish-Mexican (1792-1848) periods are scarce. The Anglo period (1848-1929) included much indiscriminate burning by prospectors, hunters, and ranchers. By the late 1800's, tales of huge fires in the Santa Lucia Mountains were common in newspapers and government reports [12]. A probable mean fire interval for lightning fires alone was estimated for oak woodlands (in which bristlecone fir can occur) as 10 to 30 years. The mean fire interval for mixed evergreen forests (in which bristlecone fir occurs) was estimated at 30 to 100 years for lightning fires. Recent fire history (since 1929) gives a mean fire interval of 215 years for mixed evergreen forests [9]. Talley and Griffin [29] reported a range of 19 to 78 years between fire scars (from 1640 to 1977) on sugar pine in the area where bristlecone fir occurs. Because of topography, the fire-free interval for bristlecone fir stands on steep slopes is probably longer than any of these figures. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Tree without adventitious-bud root crown


SPECIES: Abies bracteata
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Bristlecone fir is easily killed by fire due to its dense branching habit and thin bark [1,12]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Frequent or intense fire probably eliminates bristlecone fir [12]. An August, 1977 wildfire burned 178,000 acres in the Santa Lucia Mountains. The fire was extremely intense due to a large accumulation of dead brush and other fuels. Many bristlecone fir groves escaped the fire because they occurred on steep, rocky terrain that did not carry the fire. The largest bristlecone fir in the area (51 inches [129.5 cm] in diameter) appeared undamaged 10 months after the fire. Ground fires did not burn into many of the fir stands, though trees on the edges of the stands were killed [12]. Griffin [12] suspected, however, that insect damage would eventually kill more trees than the fire. He based this supposition on the work of Talley [27], who observed that two bristlecone fir groves lost only a small number of trees as a direct effect of the 1970 Buckeye Fire, but had higher mortality rates as a result of postfire insect damage. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Abies bracteata
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Forest Science. 34(1): 139-151. [22019] 5. Dayton, William A. 1952. Notes on United States tree names: Bristlecone fir. Rhodora. 54: 74-76. [21758] 6. Elias, Thomas S. 1980. The complete trees of North America: field guide and natural history. New York: Times Mirror Magazines, Inc. 948 p. [21987] 7. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 8. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 9. Greenlee, Jason M.; Langenheim, Jean H. 1990. Historic fire regimes and their relation to vegetation patterns in the Monterey Bay area of California. American Midland Naturalist. 124(2): 239-253. [15144] 10. Griffin, James R. 1975. Ecological Survey of Juniper Serra Peak candidate Botanical Area. Consultant Report 1180. PSW-75. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest ServiceBerkeley, CA. [23645] 11. Griffin, James R. 1975. Plants of the highest Santa Lucia and Diablo Range peaks, California. Res. Pap. PSW-110. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 50 p. [22108] 12. Griffin, James R. 1978. The Marble-Cone fire ten months later. Fremontia. 6: 8-14. [19081] 13. Griffin, James R.; Critchfield, William B. 1972. The distribution of forest trees in California. Res. Pap. PSW-82. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 118 p. [1041] 14. Gutierrez, R. J.; Koenig, Walter D. 1978. Characteristics of storage trees used by acorn woodpeckers in two California woodlands. Journal of Forestry. 76(3): 162-164. [20555] 15. Howitt, Beatrice F.; Howell, John Thomas. 1964. The vascular plants of Monterey County, California. Wasmann Journal of Biology. 22(1): 1-184. [22168] 16. Kartesz, John T.; Kartesz, Rosemarie. 1980. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Volume II: The biota of North America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press; in confederation with Anne H. Lindsey and C. Richie Bell, North Carolina Botanical Garden. 500 p. [6954] 17. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 18. Ledig, F. Thomas. 1987. Genetic structure and the conservation of California's endemic and near-endemic conifers. In: Elias, T. S., ed. Conference on the conservation and management of rare and endangered plants: Proceedings of symposium; [Date of conference unknown]; [Location of conference unknown]. Sacramento, CA: California Native Plant Society: 587-594. [22218] 19. Legg, Ken. 1953. Bristlecone fir makes its last stand. Nature Magazine. 46: 521-522. [22167] 20. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952] 21. Munz, Philip A. 1974. A flora of southern California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1086 p. [4924] 22. Preston, Richard J., Jr. 1948. North American trees. Ames, IA: The Iowa State College Press. 371 p. [1913] 23. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 24. Raven, Peter H.; Axelrod, Daniel I. 1978. Origin and relationships of the California flora. University of California Publ. in Botany Volume 72. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 134 p. [21314] 25. Smith, James Payne, Jr.; Berg, Ken. 1988. Inventory of rare and endangered vascular plants of California. 4th ed. Special Publication No. 1. Sacramento, CA: California Native Plant Society. 168 p. [7494] 26. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 27. Talley, Steven Neal. 1974. The ecology of Santa Lucia fir (Abies bracteata), a narrow endemic of California. Durham, NC: Duke University. 208 p. Dissertation. [23160] 28. Talley, Steven N. 1976. The role of fire within montane pine forest, Junipero Serra peak. Consultant Report (Sec.1 No. 00171). Lick Observatory. Santa Cruz, CA: University of California. [Pages unknown]. [23646] 29. Talley, Steven N.; Griffin, James R. 1980. Fire ecology of a montane pine forest, Junipero Serra Peak, California. Madrono. 27: 49-60. [4788] 30. Thorne, Robert F. 1977. Montane and subalpine forests of the Transverse and Peninsular ranges. In: Barbour, Michael G.; Major, Jack, eds. Terrestrial vegetation of California. New York: John Wiley and Sons: 537-557. [7214] 31. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573] 32. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1992. Every species counts: Research on threatened, endangered, and sensitive plants and animals. Program Aid 1481. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 20 p. [18179] 33. Franklin, Jerry F. 1974. Abies Mill. fir. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 168-183. [7566] 34. Hickman, James C., ed. 1993. The Jepson manual: Higher plants of California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1400 p. [21992]