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Published August 31, 2012, 09:44 AM

Jamestown man has only known subalpine fir in North Dakota

JAMESTOWN, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State University researchers are growing seeds from the state's only known subalpine fir tree to see if the species can become a part of the state's landscape, though results likely won't be known for at least a decade.

JAMESTOWN, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State University researchers are growing seeds from the state's only known subalpine fir tree to see if the species can become a part of the state's landscape, though results likely won't be known for at least a decade.

Dennis Roaldson, of Jamestown, brought the young fir from Montana about 1980 and did not even know what it was until City Forester Vern Quam identified it years later.

"To me an evergreen is an evergreen," Roaldson told The Jamestown Sun.

When he entered his tree in the state Forest Service's Champion Tree program — which recognizes the largest of each species in the state — he found out it was the only subalpine fir in North Dakota.

"It is kind of rare to see a tree outside its native area that is doing so well," Quam said.

The tree has soft, short needles that give off a pleasant scent. It is distinctive from other firs in that the cones form only at the top of the tree and shatter while still on the tree, dispersing the seeds on the ground below. The cones are purple, another distinctive feature.

Officials want to know if the non-native tree is suitable for widespread use in North Dakota, NDSU researcher Todd West said. The process could take 10-20 years.

"We have to create enough population to test in different soil types and for hardiness," he said.

"The idea is diversity," West said. "We are battling new diseases and pests all the time that threaten existing species. Adding a new species could give us another hardy tree."

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