Vanishing Acts: Fraser Fir

By Andrew Berry

A Young Fraser Fir Bernheim acquired to accompany the Vanishing Acts exhibit
A Young Fraser Fir Bernheim acquired to accompany the Vanishing Acts exhibit

The Fraser Fir, Abies fraseri, has been in existence for over 12,000 years (called a glacial relict, because its existence dates back to the last glacial age), that is now found only in the highest regions of the southern Appalachians. As the climate warmed since the end of the last glaciation, fraser firs have been pushed higher into the mountains and now are at risk due to continued climate change and and an invasive insect, the balsam wooly adelgid.

Since the introduction of the adelgid, the fraser fir has experienced losses of as much as 80% of the mature trees. Outside of its native range it is widely grown as a Christmas tree. A great place to view these magnificent trees is in the Smoky Mountains where they are found in the cool, moist environment of the high elevations above 4000 foot. Bernheim Forest was dominated by spruce and fir forests as recently as 10,000 years ago. The retreat of the glaciers and warming climate enabled oak-hickory forest to begin to increase sometime around 8,000 years before present.

Want more Vanishing Acts? Click here to view the archive.


Vanishing Acts: Trees Under Threat was developed and produced by The Morton Arboretum in association with the Global Trees Campaign, a partnership between Fauna and Flora International and Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

Funding for this exhibit comes from The Morton Arboretum and the U.S. Institute for Museum and Library Services, Museums for America Grant Program.

Support locally comes from LG&E and KU. Additional support provided by Shepherdsville/Bullitt County Tourism.

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