Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Charmingly symmetrical evergreens: white silver fir and magnificent silver fir

In the book The Mountains of California John Muir (1838-1914) presents his observations of animals and plants of the Sierra Nevada, which he describes with factual details, but also with emotional attachment and anthropocentric expressions. In his narrative, trees are curious, brave, graceful, noble, magnificent, majestic, kingly beautiful, finely balanced or exquisitely harmonious. The white silver fir (Abies concolor) and the magnificent silver fir, or red fir (Abies magnifica) are charmingly symmetrical.

The white silver fir is charmingly symmetrical in its youth [1]:

We come now to the most regularly planted of all the main forest belts, composed almost exclusively of two noble firs—A. concolor and A. magnifica. It extends with no marked interruption for 450 miles, at an elevation of from 5000 to nearly 9000 feet above the sea. In its youth A. concolor is a charmingly symmetrical tree with branches regularly whorled in level collars around its whitish-gray axis, which terminates in a strong, hopeful shoot.
John Muir, 1894.

Muir then compares the magnificent silver fir with the white silver fir [1]:

This [A. magnifica] is the most charmingly symmetrical of all the giants of the Sierra woods, far surpassing its companion species in this respect, and easily distinguished from it by the purplish-red bark, which is also more closely furrowed than that of the white, and by its larger cones, more regularly whorled and fronded branches, and by its leaves, which are shorter, and grow all around the branchlets and point upward.
In size, these two Silver Firs are about equal, the magnifica perhaps a little the taller. Specimen from 200 to 250 feet high are not rare on well-ground moraine soil, at an elevation of from 7500 to 8500 feet above sea-level. The largest that I measured stands back three miles from the brink of the north wall of Yosemite Valley. Fifteen years ago it was 240 feet high, with a diameter of a little more than five feet. 
John Muir, 1894.

And it is worth to read on, since Muir charmingly writes about the wildflowers growing gloriously within and between the fir stands.

Keywords: anthropocentrism, adjectives, conifers, Pinaceae, natural history, nature, Sierra Nevada.

References and more to explore
[1] John Muir: The Mountains of California. The Century Company, New York, 1894. Note: see pages 122 to 128  in the Penguin Classics Book print of 1985 with an introduction by Edward Hoagland.

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