Abies cephalonica (Loudon)

The distribution of Abies cephalonica in Greece

Εξάπλωση Abies cephalonica στην Ελλάδα

Map Ι. Distribution of Abies cephalonica in Greece (indicated with dots).

There are three Fir species in Greece: Abies cephalonica (Cephalonian Fir), Abies alba (White Fir), as well as their hybrid Abies x borisii-regis.

Abies cephalonica is a Greek endemic species, i.e. it occurs only in the Greek region. In particular, it occurs in Cephalonia (Map I), Evvia and in mainland Greece from Peloponnesus to Mt. Olimbos and Mt. Athos, at an altitude of 600-1,600 m.

The need to protect the Fir forest on Mt. Ainos, where it was described as a new species (locus classicus), as well as the phytogeographical importance of its presence in Cephalonia, constituted the main reasons that resulted in the declaration of Mt. Ainos as a National Park in 1962.

The name Abies cephalonica was given by the English botanist J.W. Loudon in 1838, when he classified the Fir from Cephalonia as a new species.

In previous centuries, particularly after the 16th century, extensive woodcutting in the forest of Mt. Ainos-Mt. Roudi, as well as the inability to effectively control and put out fires that occurred in the area, threatened the survival of the Fir forest. As a result, its distribution area has been restricted to 1/4 of the initial one.

It is possible that the temperature increase in the future, due to global climatic change, may threaten the Fir forests. The temperature increase, predicted in particular for the Mediterranean basin, will have important negative effects on the populations of most conifer species, including Abies cephalonica.

Εξάπλωση της ελάτης στη Ν. Κεφαλονιά

Map ΙΙ. Distribution of  Abies cephalonica in Cephalonia isl. (depticted by green color)

In the forest of the National Park of Mt. Ainos you can observe each spring, numerous young fir plants, a few centimeters tall, that germinated by the end of winter (Fig. 5). Most of them will not survive in the following years, either due to natural causes or illegal grazing. Those that do manage to survive (Figs 6-7), will require up to 50 years, in order to reach reproductive maturity and produce seeds of their own. Under ideal conditions, the trees can live to become up to 500 years old.

In each tree the male flowers appear on the lower branches (Figs 8-9), where they form red-brown infloresences (catkins), whereas the female flowers occur on the middle and upper branches, forming characteristic erect cones (Figs 8 & 10). The  seeds reach maturity in September and disperse in October. The Cephalonian Fir is characterized by a masting behaviour, i.e. a large number of seeds is produced only every 3-4 years.