fir, any tree of the genus Abies of the family Pinaceae (pine family), tall pyramidal evergreen conifers characterized by short, flat, stemless needles and erect cylindrical cones that shed their scales rather than dropping off the tree whole. Firs, valued and cultivated for their fragrance and beauty, are found chiefly in alpine regions of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America the balsam fir, or balsam, popular as a Christmas tree and the source of Canada balsam, is native to the Northeast; the Fraser fir, or she-balsam, grows in the Alleghenies and is used as a Christmas tree; and the noble, alpine, and red firs are found at high altitudes and the grand, silver, and white firs on lower mountain slopes in the Northwest. Fir wood is usually light and soft but is sometimes used for interior finishing and for crates and boxes. The Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, is not a true fir (see pine). Firs are classified in the division Pinophyta, class Pinopsida, order Coniferales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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