Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Abies religiosa Lindl.

Fully-hardy, evergreen tree with downward-sweeping stems, tapered and curved leaves, to 3.5cm long, reddish-brown when young, and cylindrical cones, to 15cm long, bluish when young.  To about 15m.  [RHSD, Hortus, Hilliers’].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Introduced to Britain in 1838.  [RHSD].  ‘Apparently a widely distributed Silver Fir in the mountain forests of Mexico, at elevations of 8000 to 10,000 feet, but descending to 4000 in some places.  It is a very handsome umbrageous species, with longer branches and a more pendulous habit than its northern allies, either American, as A. noillis, grandis, lasiocarpa, &c.; or European, as A. pectinata.  It is, unfortunately, tender in this country, fine specimens being only to be seen in the southern and western counties and in Ireland.  That from which the specimen here figured was procured forms a singularly handsome tree in the superb collection of Coniferae at Fota Island, Cork, the well-known seat of A. H. Smith Barry, Esq., to whom I am indebted for sending it to Kew for identification.  Dr. M’Nab places A. religiosa next to A. bracteata, considering it very closely related, an opinion I cannot subscribe to; for in habit, form and nature of the buds foliage and bracts, they seem to me to be very different indeed.  In all these respects A. religiosa approaches nearer to A. nobilis, in the cones especially.  Gordon describes as a var. A. glancescens Roezel, with leaves silvery on both surfaces, so as to make the trees appear as if snowed upon.  The name religiosa is in allusion to the branches being used in the decoration of churches in Mexico.’  [BM t.6753/1884].

History at Camden Park

Listed only in the 1857 catalogue [C.52/1857].  Abies religiosa was included among desiderata in a letter to Loddiges’ Nursery dated 6th January 1845 [MP A2933-2, p.28] and again on 16th April 1846 [MP A2933-1, p.147].  But in a letter to Loddiges’ on 13th February 1848 Macarthur reported that both religiosa and webbiana were dead on arrival [MP A2933-1, p.172].  It was probably later obtained from the London Horticultural Society or Kew Gardens.  It was included among desiderata in a letter to John Lindley dated 15th February 1848 [MP A2933-1, p.157] and to Sir William Hooker on 11th February 1848 [MP A2933-1, p.165] but was not marked ‘arrived’ on Macarthur’s copies.  


Published Jul 15, 2009 - 05:21 PM | Last updated Jul 29, 2010 - 03:20 PM

Illustrated are tapered and curved leaves and bluish cylindrical cones.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.6753, 1884.

Abies religiosa Lindl. | BM t.6753/1884 | BHL

Family Pinaceae
Region of origin

Central America

  • Picea religiosa Loud.
Common Name

Sacred fir

Name in the Camden Park Record

Picea religiosa

Confidence level high