The fir is a conifer with a slender, conical port that can reach 50 m in height. The branches are horizontal, carried by a straight trunk with a long bole. The bark is initially smooth, silvery gray, then cracked into small patches.
Essence of shade, it grows in altitude in cool and humid climates. In France, this fir is common in all the great mountain ranges (Vosges, Jura, Alps, Pyrenees, Corsica…).
The leaves are linear, with a rounded or slightly notched tip, semi-rigid, 2 to 3 cm long. Shiny dark green on the top, with 2 white stripes on the reverse, the needles, inserted directly on the branch, are arranged in a brush on the upper branches and in a double comb on the lower branches.
Most conifers have "evergreen" foliage. They remain green in all seasons because the leaves live for several years and do not all fall at the same time in the fall, unlike hardwoods. These conifers replace their leaves, which gradually fall during the year, with new needles or scales that grow.
Monoecious species, the flowers in separate groups are yellow and under the twigs for males, green and erect on twigs close to the top for females. The ripe cones are cylindrical, brown, erect, 10-15 cm long, formed by scales protruding by protruding bracts and facing downwards. The scales gradually detach from the central axis of the cone that remains on the tree, releasing the triangular winged seeds.
The female inflorescences are made up of flexible, brightly colored overlapping scales forming a kind of immature cone (called a strobile) containing the reproductive organs (ova). Eggs are not enclosed in an ovary.
Male inflorescences, usually smaller than female inflorescences, contain the powdery pollen carried by the wind.
Once fertilized, the female cones develop into mature cones that contain true seeds, while the male inflorescences dry up and fall off once the pollen is released.
The cone, which often refers to the “fruit” of conifers, is not a real fruit per se. In botany, the fruit is the organ which contains the seeds and which results from the development of the ovary after fertilization. However, there is no ovary in gymnosperms. Ripe cones are mostly made of woody scales at the base of which the seeds are located.
When they reach a certain stage of maturity, the cones split open, scale by scale, allowing the seeds to fall off for dissemination.
The seeds are often winged for better wind dispersal. Others are ingested by animals and then pass in their droppings.
The beekeeping interest
Pines, Firs or Cypresses are also called "conifers" because they naturally produce "resin". A chemically complex plant substance, the resin participates in the fight against parasites and in healing after injury.
Propolis originates from the resins collected by bees from the buds and bark of various trees and shrubs, including conifers. Inside the hive, bees laboriously process these resins with their own secretions to obtain propolis.
Bees use propolis to sanitize the hive and make it waterproof. The maintenance of health and the prevention of disease in the colony, under the conditions of a giant agglomeration of 10,000 to 60,000 individuals in a confined space, is due in large part to propolis. The bees brush the entire surface of the hive with propolis, as well as each cell of the comb in which they will deposit honey, pollen or eggs. Hive intruders (eg mice), after being neutralized, are coated with propolis to prevent them from rotting. The pollen deposited in the hive loses its germination capacity in about five days. In addition, bees breathe the air from the hive, which is laden with propolis aerosols.
The beneficial effects of propolis
Propolis is researched and used for two types of actions in nature:
1) an inhibitory, destructive action manifested in microorganisms and certain toxic substances;
2) a bioactive effect in humans and animals. Its antiviral, antibiotic, antifungal and phyto-inhibitory value is generally recognized. In addition, it is recognized as an active biological product with versatile action: antioxidant, detoxifier, anti-inflammatory, healing, heavy metal chelator, immunostimulant, immunomodulator, biostimulant, bioregulator. It is also known as an analgesic (Dr. Aosan 2015).
Honeydew is a popular sweet food source for ants and bees. It is an excreta, that is, a substance produced from the sap on young shoots and leaves of plants, by sucking insects, mainly coccids, aphids and psyllids. In the summer and into the fall, the population of these insects increases very quickly on some trees and the amount of honeydew excreted from their abdomen can be extremely large. If it were not harvested by the many insects interested in the sugars it contains, plants or trees would be covered with a shiny, slimy film.
Honeydew is therefore the result of an interaction between the plant, the excretory insect and the collecting insect. Bees collect the honeydew as a supplement or replacement for the nectar.
The ideal conditions for the production of honeydew are moderate temperature, air humidity above 50%, and weather without rain.
Fir honeydew selected by Miel Factory
The fir honeydew produced in our region is a rare and highly coveted product, due to its unique composition and its very random harvest depending greatly on weather conditions.
This honeydew consists of water (approximately 16%), fructose (approximately 38%), glucose (approximately 27%), sucrose (approximately 3%), dextrose and melezitose as well as amino acids and minerals.
This prestigious honeydew contains above all a large quantity of trace elements, such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, boron, iron or copper. Fir honeydew is characterized by its very dark color, with more or less green and woody iridescence depending on the region. Its sugar composition causes very slow crystallization. The smell of fir honeydew is aromatic, very marked and very pleasant. Each year, nearly 10% of firs and spruces perish in the Vosges and Jura forests due to repeated droughts, global warming and a wood-boring insect, the bark beetle. Fir honeydew is therefore becoming an increasingly rare commodity (Feltin 2019).
Our fir honeydew is harvested in Auvergne on the Meygal Massif, of volcanic origin.
It is a honeydew with pronounced aromas, with hints of resins, its taste is almost balsamic with great sweetness. Particularly recommended in respiratory ailments, it is ideal for winter. The high fructose content keeps it liquid for quite a long time. It is recommended on a good toast of bread, in tea or coffee and to caramelize chicken or duck.