Electronic Journal of Polish Agricultural Universities (EJPAU) founded by all Polish Agriculture Universities presents original papers and review articles relevant to all aspects of agricultural sciences. It is target for persons working both in science and industry,regulatory agencies or teaching in agricultural sector. Covered by IFIS Publishing (Food Science and Technology Abstracts), ELSEVIER Science - Food Science and Technology Program, CAS USA (Chemical Abstracts), CABI Publishing UK and ALPSP (Association of Learned and Professional Society Publisher - full membership). Presented in the Master List of Thomson ISI.
Volume 8
Issue 4
Available Online: http://www.ejpau.media.pl/volume8/issue4/art-21.html


Jerzy Sosnowski1, Bartłomiej Obajtek2, Radosław W±sik1
1 Department of Forest and Wood Utilization, Agricultural University of Cracow, Poland
2 Myslenice Forest District, Regional Directorate of State Forests in Cracow, Poland



Research on the growth of the introduced giant fir (Abies grandis Lindl.) on a forest farm in the mountains (Myslenice Forest District, the Beskid Sredni Mts, The Western Carpathian Mts) has indicated the productive, protective and utility capabilities of this fast-growing species.

Key words: giant fir, height, vitality, productivity, usefulness, a forest culture in the mountains.


Interest in those species of foreign origin which are characterized by high productive capabilities has resulted from economic changes in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Fast developing industry needed huge amounts of timber. Moreover, the development of agriculture and settlements caused additional decrease in forest area. That is why there was a need for tree species characterized by high timber production in a short time [4]. Foresters became interested in fast growing trees present on other continents in similar climatic conditions.

Research aimed at selecting fast growing species, adapted to various regions of Europe, out of a large number of trees of foreign origin, was commenced in the early 20th c. [1]. It required testing trees in particular lowland, upland and mountain conditions over whole decades. The remains of those attempts are research plots with surviving trees of various origins, scattered over whole Europe [19]. They have become a source of valuable economic data, thanks to which some tree species were introduced to plantations, plantings and even to stands [8].

In many European countries, the successful farming attempts allowed for determining which species, of which origins and in which conditions are characterized by the greatest effectiveness with regard to volume increment and other features. One of the species which is crucial in respect of a number of useful farming features, high volume productivity and resistance to diseases is North-American giant fir (Abies grandis Lindl.). This fir was successfully introduced in Germany, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Switzerland. The areas of growing of these species are increased every year, using the national seed resources [11].


In Poland, attempts at the growing of the introduced giant fir reveal its high farming and utility value. The research was carried out mostly in lowland forests [2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 18, 19] and more seldom in the mountains [10, 12].

The aim of the present study is to extend the research on the growth and usefulness of giant fir as well as to report in scientific press one more giant fir stand in the mountains.

The object of the present study is one of the largest areas of this species in mountainous conditions in Poland (1.56 ha). The stand is located in the VIII Carpathian Region, the Province of the Beskid Mały Mts and Beskid Średni Mts, within the Regional Directorate of State Forests in Kraków, in Myslenice Forest District, Tokarnia Sub-District, Division 241, in the neighbouring subdivisions: f (-01), with the area of 1.33 ha, and g (-01), with the area of 0.23 ha. Its geographical coordinates are 49°44 of north latitude and 19°52 of east longitude.

The research area is situated near the ridge at the altitude of 525-545 m; its slope aspect is south-western and its slope reduction is 2-30% (which corresponds to the slope gradient of 1-17.5°).

Its soils are brown acid, podzolic, moderately fresh, with a considerable amount of coarse stone. The stand is located on the site of mixed mountainous forest of the fir-spruce economic type [15].

The plot was set up in 1979 on the area of 2 ha, under the shelter of a spruce stand and partly of larch forecrop. Two-year-old giant fir seedlings with covered root system were planted within the distance of 1.5 m from one another over the prepared plot.

The geographical coordinates of the research area and its altitude and slope aspect were determined with the use of the Omni device for locating objects in the GPS system (Global Positioning System). The size of the research area and its slope reductions were determined using the Delta 020 teodolith, produced by the Zeiss company.

In the area thus located, the breast height diameter of all trees was measured. The measurement was performed using diameter meter; each tree was measured, with the accuracy of 1 mm, in two directions and this data was then used to calculate the mean result. The trees were next divided into 5 one-centimetre thickness classes: up to 6 (cm), 7-14 (cm), 15-20 (cm), 21-35 (cm), 36-50 (cm). The trees in class I were disregarded when calculating the volume and increment of the stand under research.

In each thickness class, depending on its number of trees, between 1 and 4 trees were selected; their present height and height increments over the last 5 years were measured using the teodolith. Thickness increments were determined on the basis of drilled material collected from 7 trees (every 2 trees from the classes with the most trees, i.e. II-IV, and one tree from class V). The material was drilled using the Pressler drill, applied to two sides of the trunk.

The data allowed for the determination of the volume of single merchantable boles and for the calculation of the stock, volume/ha and annual volume increment of the stand.

The volume of the merchantable boles was calculated by means of the following formulas used for fir [6]:


d – breast-height diameter of tree (cm),
h – height of tree (m),
fq – breast-height-diameter number of shape of merchantable bole over bark is: fq = f1 · s,

when breast-height-diameter number of shape of stem over bark is:


where D – average breast-height diameter of stand (cm), H – average height of stand (m), and .

The above formulas allowed for the calculation of the current volume of merchantable boles in the stand as well as the volume 5 years ago. The difference between these two volumes indicated the current five-year increment and the average annual increment over the last 5 years.

The research area also underwent approximate visual assessment of the health condition and development of the trees in the stand as well as their influence on the soil.


The largest concentration of giant fir can be found in the south-eastern part of subdivision f (-01) and in the adjacent subdivision g (-01). The stand has full crown density and the crowns form an even ceiling. The trees in the north-western part of subdivision f (-01) grow in groups with different heights. This differentiation is due to the existence of a larch stand, which had grown there before and which underwent irregular cutting.

Fig. 1. Distribution of giant fir trees in breast-height-diameter degrees of thickness

The giant fir stand under research currently occupies an area of 1.54 ha and includes 654 trees of this species, characterized by a very broad range of breast height diameters and heights. The diameters range from 4 to 41 (cm) (Fig. 1) and the heights - from 3.75 to 19.50 (m) (Fig. 2), which leads to the conclusion that the stems of these trees have a high degree of taper. The tallest giant fir tree is 19.50 (m) tall and had the breast height diameter of 41 cm. It grows in the central part of the area under research and is surrounded by other tallest giant fir trees.

Fig. 2. Average height of giant fir trees in breast-height-diameter degrees of thickness

The two diagrams presented above show that the largest number of trees have the diameter of 15-20 (cm) and the average height of 7.8 (m). In the disregarded thickness classes (Table), the greatest accumulation of volume occurs in trees whose diameter is 21-35 (cm) and average height is 10.9 (m); these trees constitute about 68% of the timber stock in the research area.

Table. Distribution of number of trees and volume in thickness classes of giant fir

Thickness class

Number of trees

Volume of merchantable boles

trees/1.54 (ha)



stock m3/1.54 ha

Volume per 1 ha (m3/ha)


I (do 6)







II (7-14)







III (15-20)







IV (21-35)







V (36-50)














All the trees are characterized by very long life capacity, have conical, only slightly deformed crowns, even the trees which are shaded from a side. The crowns are very long (longer than 3/4 of tree height), also when growing densely (Fig. 3). No dying of the shaded branches of giant fir was noted.

Fig. 3. Conical shape of crowns of giant fir (photo by B. Obajtek)

The giant fir stand under research showed no signs of damage caused by winds, such as windbroken or windfallen trees. There was also no damage due to low temperatures, like brown colour of needles or loss of the youngest increments of trees. However, the trees growing near the stand borders had scars remaining after biting the bark by deer.

Annual height increments of giant fir ranged from 0.50 to 1.40. In one part of subdivision f (-01), in which giant fir is towered over by larch, its height increments are low. On the other hand, the freely growing trees (Fig. 4) have formed conical tops with scarce needles, where the increment of the main shoot dominates over the side shoots.

Fig. 4. Height increment forms of the tops of giant fir, where the forecrop trees were removed earlier (the sides of the photo) and later (the centre of the photo) (photo by B. Obajtek)

The stand under research, when aged 25 years, reached the volume of 68.71 m3/ha and its stock amounted to 105.82 m3/1.54 ha (Table). The average annual increment of giant fir over the last 5 years was 13 m3/ha/year.

In subdivision f (-01), giant fir is accompanied by native European silver fir (abies alba Mill.), aged 20 years and about 2 m tall. In subdivision g (-01), giant fir is accompanied by Norway spruce (Picea abies Mill.), aged about 14 years and 4 m tall. Larger admixtures of these two species, originating from plantings and from self-seeding, survive at the borders of the research area.


The giant fir stand under the present research showed no signs of damage caused by abiotic factors, such as low temperatures, frost and winds. This allows for a conclusion that the trees under research adapted well to the climatic conditions of the region.

The damage caused to tree bark by deer was well regenerated, which confirms the research by Bellon et al. [4], carried out in other giant fir stands in Poland.

The fact that the shaded giant fir branches do not die is explained by [13] a higher chlorophyll content in their needles than in other tree species, which makes giant fir capable of performing photosynthesis also in greater shade. The resulting weak self-clearing of the bottom branches of the crown lowers the technical quality of the stem but increases biomass production and the possibility to harvest tall Christmas trees with very god quality needles. The fact that branches grow down to the very bottom as well as large taper of stems provide good protection against breaking by wind. Moreover, the arrangement of branches and their flexibility protect the trees from damage caused by the weight of snow and ice, which confirms earlier research [16].

In the future, the trees which grow in the research area will provide timber whose technical quality equals European silver fir (Abies alba Mill.). The timber of giant fir in a dry air condition is light and soft, slightly lighter than European silver fir (Abies alba Mill.). Its colour is light, it is relatively resistant to fungi and it is easily processed [8] - hence it may find a similar application to the timber of European silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) in Poland. In the USA, giant fir is used mainly in building industry (beams, rafters, roof trusses and window frames), furniture making, box production and cellulose industry [14].

Analysis of the sizes of the trees, their height and thickness increments, allows for stating that giant fir is justly considered to be one of the most productive species in the moderate climatic zone.

As confirmed by the present research, the average annual increment of merchantable boles of giant fir in the period of the last 5 years amounted to 13 m3/ha/year. It is worth noting that in Sweden stands aged up to 25 years have a very similar increment per year and that in older stands it amounts to 26 m3/ha. In Germany, in the stands located near the Polish border, this increment is between 18 and 22 m3/ha [8]. Hence, considering good production capacities of giant fir growing on good sites, such as the one under present research, the value of the increment in this case is lower than expected. What explains it is the fact that the forecrop trees were removed too late; doing it a few years earlier would have resulted in earlier development of volume and needles in the crown of the trees being then exposed. This, in turn, would have brought about higher increment of timber volume. This proves the dominant influence of light conditions on the growth and productivity of trees, which had been noted by other authors [7]. The present research has not confirmed the fact that the co-occurrence of giant fir with native species growing in the lower layer of the stand (except the species which tower over giant fir) could significantly disturb its growth and development.

It seems that, despite the objections voiced by certain circles dealing with nature protection and opposing the introduction of foreign species to our forests [17], but considering a number of positive features of giant fir, it would be advisable to increase the area of its farming in Poland for economic reasons.


Research conducted in a giant fir stand – in the present stage of its development - in mountain conditions (Myslenice Forest District) allows for the following conclusions:

  1. Abundant and complete system of branches and the rate of growth of giant fir allows for an assumption that, both in forests and in formerly arable land, this species would very well serve the purpose of Christmas tree production (including the tall ones), decoration material with excellent esthetic value and a large amount of biomass for fuel. Taking advantage of this fact might, apart from immediate economic profits, allow for limiting the losses due to illegal harvesting of Christmas trees in native European silver fir.

  2. The giant fir trees in the stand under research did not cause any farming problems and had excellent protective value (protection of soil thanks to a rich branch system, lack of damage due to abiotic and biotic factors, large capacity for regeneration of damage caused by deer).

  3. The relatively large increments of the height, breast height diameter and volume of giant fir, proven by the present research, could be accelerated by means of earlier removal of forecrop trees.

  4. The giant fir trees under research will soon enter the stage of reproduction, which may be used in seed management. The seeds collected in this area could serve the purpose of reproduction of the trees which have already proven themselves in mountain climatic conditions and which are characterized by good vitality and health condition as well as relatively high productivity.


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  2. Bellon S. 1990. Dotychczasowe wyniki badań proweniencyjnych z jodłą olbrzymią (Abies Grandis Lindl.) w Polsce. Sylwan, 1: 27-35. [Results of provenance trials with giant fir up to the present time] [in Polish].

  3. Bellon S., Kamiński J.,Tumiłowicz J. 1986. A preliminary IUFRO provenance trial with grand fir Abies grandis Lindl.) in central Poland. Forestry Commision Research, 139: 129-144.

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  13. Magnussen S., Peschel A. 1981. Die Einwirkung verschiedener Beschaftungsgrade auf die Photosyntheze und die Transpiration junger Weiss– und Küstentannen. Allg. Forst- u. Jagdztg., 5: 82-93. [The influence of different degrees of shade on the photosynthesis and transpiration of European silver fir and giant fir] [in Polish].

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  15. Plan Urządzania Lasu dla Nadleśnictwa Myślenice na okres 1998-2007. Biuro Urządzania Lasu i Geodezji Leśnej w Krakowie. [The Forest Management Scheme for Myślenice Forest District for the period 1998-2007] [in Polish].

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Jerzy Sosnowski
Department of Forest and Wood Utilization,
Agricultural University of Cracow, Poland
al. 29 Listopada 46, 31-425 Cracow, Poland
email: jsosnows@ar.krakow.pl

Bartłomiej Obajtek
Myslenice Forest District,
Regional Directorate of State Forests in Cracow, Poland
Szpitalna 13, 32-400 Myslenice, Poland
email: pro.bart@interia.pl

Radosław W±sik
Department of Forest and Wood Utilization,
Agricultural University of Cracow, Poland
al. 29 Listopada 46, 31-425 Cracow, Poland
email: rlwasik@cyf-kr.edu.pl

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