Posted by Bert Cregg
I just wrapped up putting together a species profile on grand fir (Abies grandis) for Great Lakes Christmas Tree Journal, which is the professional trade publication of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association. I do a lot of articles and presentations on conifers and while I draw on my personal experience and background as much as possible, invariably I’ll need to consult some references. Here are some resources that may come in handy if you need to develop a presentation or article or just want to know more about conifers.
Silvics of North America
Silvics is a forestry term that refers to the “study of the life history and characteristics of forest trees especially as they occur in stands and with particular reference to environmental influences.” Back in the day, just about every forester worth their salt had a weathered and dog-eared copy of Silvics of North America on the bookshelf. Today it is available on-line. Silvics contains lots of basic information about trees species; where they grow, how fast they grow, common best problems, and their genetics. Silvics also includes range maps from Dr. Elbert Little, which are a handy reference when you need to know whether or not a species in native in particular location.
Chris Earle’s website is a botanical tour de force. It covers all gymnosperms, not just conifers but, of course, conifers make up the biggest portion of the site. The Gymnosperm database includes species descriptions for essentially every conifer in the world. Many species descriptions also include images. Earle discusses taxonomy of conifers, which for many species, is taking more plot twists these days than an episode of ‘Law and Order’. There are often interesting tidbits under enthnobotany for many species. Bottom line, you can look up just about any conifer species you know on the database and learn something you didn’t know.
American Conifer Society Database
The previous two resources deal primarily with conifers in their native environment. The ACS is dedicated to the Horticultural aspects of conifers. The ACS database includes hundreds of species and thousands of cultivars. For Picea abies alone the database includes over 200 cultivars. For each cultivar the site presents information on hardiness zone, growth rate, form, color and other characteristics. Many descriptions also include photos.