Catkins, the Male Inflorescences of Abies cephalonica
Catkins, the Male Inflorescences of Greek Fir

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

The Greek Fir (Abies cephalonica), has a clear origin, unlike Homeric Ithaca, which others locate in Zakynthos island, others in Lefkada and others in Doulihion – today’s Kefalonia. Also – in addition to its clear origin – it is of great value and importance.

Because it is a unique coniferous tree, endemic to the Greek land, proudly walking its journey in time and space, a space literally rough.

And it is rough because the Abies cephalonica grow on rocky formations and slopes of serpentine, flysch, schist, and dolomite.

A small taste of its adventures in time and space aspires to give the article that follows.

And a definitive answer:

Homer’s Ithaca is located in the Balearic Islands.

Greek Fir Origin

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Map of Origin
Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Map of Origin

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

Greek Fir Young Tree Growing in a Park
Greek Fir Young Tree Growing in a Park

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Brief Description

Family: Pinaceae

Genus: Abies

Scientific Name: Abies cephalonica Loudon

Common Name: Greek Fir

General Characteristics

Leaf Persistence



Coniferous Tree



Growth Rate


Flowering Period (Northern Hemisphere)

May – June

Fruiting Period

Fall – Winter


25-35 (up to 40 m) • 82-114 (up to 130 ft)


8-10 m (26-32 ft)

Shape and Colours

Leaves Shape

Needle-like, Acute

Foliage Colour


Autumn Foliage Colour


Flowers Shape

Catkins (M.), Upright Cones (F.)

Flowers Colour

Purple, Greenish-Yellow


Brown Winged


Soil Type: Sandy, loamy, clayey, with excellent drainage

Soil pH: 5-8

Watering: Moderate

Exposure: Sun, Half-Shade, Shade

Hardiness:−18 °C (0 °F – USDA Hardiness Zone 7a)


Specimen, garden, squares and parks

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

The Greek Fir Forest of Mount Ainos, Kefalonia and the Ionian Sea
The Greek Fir Forest of Mount Ainos, Kefalonia and the Ionian Sea

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Etymology

Etymology of the Genus Name

The name of the genus Abies comes from the Proto-Italian word abiets, which in turn originates from Ancient Greek ἄβιν. The word ἄβιν means silver fir or generally any similar coniferous tree.

Etymology of the Species Name

The name of species cephalonica has less literary and more travel and exploratory significance. It was called cephalonica in 1838 by the British botanist Jonh Claudius Loudon (1783-1843) who classified the species, since in 1824 the English commander of the island of Kefallonia Charles Napier had managed to locate the world’s only pure Abies cephalonica Forest, on Mount Aenos, and send seeds of the plant for recognition and cultivation in Great Britain.

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

Abies cephalonica - The Needle-like, Flattened Shape Leaves
The Needle-like, Flattened Shape Leaves of Greek Fir

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Origin & Life Span


The Greek Fir has its center of origin, various regions of Greece. Specific populations are found, at an altitude ranging from 400 to 2,300 m (1300 to 7500 ft), on the islands of Kefallonia and Evoia, on Mounts Parnitha and South Vardousia, as well as in the semi-mountainous and mountainous areas of Peloponnesus.

Furthermore, mixed populations are found both in mount Olympos and Mount Athos in northern Greece.

Life Span

The conifer, when it grows in the shade of other larger trees, lives about 100 years. In conditions of full exposure to light, its lifetime is increasing, rather spectacular, to about 500 years.

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Morphological Elements

The Greek Fir is a medium-sized and upright appearance coniferous tree, which develops a single trunk, that ends in vertically arranged branches.

The canopy of the tree is mainly pyramidal or less ovoid, and is generally symmetrical with a rather irregular outline.

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

Female Upright Cones of Abies cephalonica
Female Upright Cones of Greek Fir

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Botanical Description


The trunk is grayish brown in color, it carries grooves and its perimeter can reach up to 3 m.

Branches & Twigs

The bark of the twigs is very light gray in color, which becomes light brown in the older branches.


The leaves of the Abies cephalonica have a needle-like, flattened shape, are acutely and spirally arranged on the shoots.

Their color is green το medium green while their size ranges from 1.5 to 3 cm (0.6-1.2 in) in length, 1.8-2 mm (0.07-0.08 in) in width and their thickness is about 0.5 mm (0.02 in).


The flowers are in the same tree – they tree is monoecious species – but in separate positions the males from the females. The first appear mainly in the lower branches, while the latter in the middle and higher.

The males form purple-yellow color catkins and female, cylindrical-shaped and brown-green cones whose lengths are between 10 and 20 cm (4-8 in) and their diameter between 3 and 4 cm (1.2-1.6 in).


The pollination takes place by the wind (anemophilous species).


The seeds are numerous (55 to 340 per cone), winged, and dispersed late in the autumn. Seeds have a low germination capacity of about 25 to 70%, while the tree’s characteristic is the phenomenon of the production large number of seeds every 2 to 4 years.

The conifer enters in the reproductive phase after the age of 20 to 30 years and continues to bear ‘fruits’ for about the next 70 years.

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

The Abies cephalonica Forest of Snowy Mount Ainos
The Greek Fir Forest of Snowy Mount Ainos

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Climate and Soil


The Greek Fir is generally adaptive and durable. However, it is the most sensitive to the low temperatures of all Fir species, with its forces tested below -15 °C (5 °F), while -18 °C (-0.4 °F) is the minimum tolerance limit.

This somewhat disadvantage is balanced by the high resistance of the tree to high temperatures. Indeed, temperatures up to 41 °C (105.8 °F) have no negative effect on the plant.

Soil and pH

In relation to the soil, Greek Fir grows in almost all soil types except those that permanently waterlogged.

However, it thrives in moist, deep and fertilemedium textured soils that have an acidic reaction of 5 to 5.5 in relation to pH.


The Greek Fir can grow at any exposure, from full sunshine to shady. However, since the plants are seedlings, in that case their shading, at least in the early years, becomes almost obligatory.

Then they can freely be grow anywhere in the garden or in the landscape, but taking into account what has been said above: if we want to enjoy them – why not? – for the next 500 years, then they should be planted in full sun places.

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Care


The fertilization of the Greek Fir is done from the end of the winter until the end of spring. It can be used a complete fertilizer containing the main elements N-P-K in a ratio of 1: 1: 1 or 1: 1: 1.5. Administration is done either once, if the fertilizer is controlled release, or in 4 doses at a frequency 1 per month.

The amount of administration is determined by the age of the conifer and by the particular soil and climatic conditions. Also the folliage application in mid-March by a preparation of trace elements as well as the addition of chelating iron will be beneficial for the tree. No other fertilization treatment is made after the end of Spring.


In its natural niches, Greek Fir grows in environments with an average annual rainfall of between 500 and 2,500 mm. However, if established, it can cope without problems with long periods of drought.

Of course, when grown for ornamental purposes, regular watering favors the best growth of the tree.

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

Snowy Trees of Abies cephalonica
Snowy Trees of Greek Fir

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Pests & Diseases

The Greek Fir usually does not face problems from pests and diseases. Not that it has no pests or diseases – it has both types of parasites, but it often happens that the pests be extremely discreet with the tree.


The bark tree borer Adelges piceae (Balsam Woolly Adelgid) together with the wood borer Pityokteines curvidens (Fir Engraver Beetle) and from the hymenoptera the Megastigmus suspectus (Fir Seed Chalcid) represent the plant’s most serious enemies.

Dealing with them, with the timely use of appropriate preparations, is satisfactory for the Hymenopteran and extremely difficult for the other two.


The most serious threats to the Greek Fir come from fungi the Conifer Root Rots Heterobasidion abietinum, Heterobasidion annosum, and Armillaria melea, as well as the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens, parasites that are difficult to control.

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Toxicity & Allergenicity


The leaves of the Greek Fir are toxic to humans and pets.


There are no reports or evidence that the plant may cause allergic reactions.

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir)

Greek Fir Trees in the Ainos National Park
Greek Fir Trees in the Ainos National Park

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Cultivars and Varieties

The Greek Fir, in its natural environment, often exhibits the phenomenon of hybridization. However, this property of the tree has not been properly utilized to produce varieties with various desirable ornamental characteristics as tree shapes and sizes. One main reason is that due to relative rarity, it has not seen the widespread popularity.

Greek Fir Cultivars and Varieties

Immediately below are the few – relatively to extremely rare – varieties of Greek Fir:

  • Abies cephalonica ‘Meyer’s Dwarf’
  • Abies cephalonica ‘Greg’s Broom’
  • Abies cephalonica ’Hunnewell’
  • Abies cephalonica ’Barabits Gold’

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - Use

Greek Fir has been used up to abuse in previous years for timber, due to the very hard wood it produces, in the construction work, in boxing, in shipbuilding, as well as in the production of pallets and the production of matches.

In recent years it has been happily used only for honey production and of course as an ornamental. For beekeeping use, it is worth mentioning that thanks to the aphids attack, the cones are secreted, and that is used appropriately for honey production.

But the nutritional contribution of Abies cephalonica does not run out of honey production. By saying this, no one of course do not imply that parts of the plant itself can be the subject of gastronomic experiences.

However the fact is that around of plant roots, wild mushrooms of great taste are growing such as the species Pleurotus ostreatus, Morchella conica and Morchella esculenta, which the experienced collector can harvest and savor.

Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir) - References

The References to the article, which deservedly bears the title Abies cephalonica (Greek Fir), are presented by Lykourgos Tzakis with the traditional Kefalonian song Mermigas.

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