In Britain natural forests of Scotch fir of any extent are only now found in the Highlands, chiefly on the declivities of the Grampians.
The larch is said not to succeed on arable land, especially where corn has been grown, but experience does not seem to support this view; that against the previous occupation of the ground by Scotch fir or Norway spruce is probably better founded, and, where timber is the object, it should not be planted with other conifers.
In places suited to its growth it seems to flourish nearly as well as in the woods of Norway or Switzerland; but as it needs for its successful cultivation as a timber tree soils that might be turned to agricultural account, it is not so well adapted for economic planting in Britain as the Scotch fir or larch, which come to perfection in more bleak and elevated regions, and on comparatively barren ground, though it may perhaps be grown to advantage on some moist hill-sides and mountain hollows.
The spruce bears the smoke of great cities better than most of the Abietineae; but in suburban localities after a certain age it soon loses its healthy appearance, and is apt to be affected with blight (Eriosoma), though not so much as the Scotch fir and most of the pines.
Depends greatly on the soil and position in which the trees are grown: the dry slopes of granitic or gneissic mountains, or the deep well-drained sandy gravels of the lower country seem to answer equally well; but on clay or wet peat the tree rarely a c Scotch Fir (Pinus sylvestris).
The soil is fertile, and the indigenous flora has been greatly enriched by the importation of such plants as the agave, the Mexican opuntia, the American maple, the Australian eucalyptus, the Scotch fir and the so-called Portuguese cypress (Cupressus lusitanica) from the Azores.
Danish peat-mosses again show the existence of man at a time when the Scotch fir was abundant; at a later period the firs were succeeded by oaks, which have again been almost superseded by beeches, a succession of changes which indicate a considerable lapse of time.
The Scotch fir is a very variable tree, and certain varieties have acquired a higher reputation for the qualities of their timber than others; among those most prized by foresters is the one called the Braemar pine, the remaining fragments of the great wood in the Braemar district being chiefly composed of this kind; it is mainly distinguished by its shorter and more glaucous leaves and ovoid cones with blunt recurved spines, and especially by the early horizontal growth of its ultimately drooping boughs; of all varieties this is the most picturesque.
The heartwood of the finer kinds of Scotch fir is of a deep brownish-red colour, abounding in the resin to which its durability is probably due.
In very dry and bleak localities, the Scotch fir will probably be more successful up to 900 ft.