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Abies balsamea

Balsam Fir

Tree with cones
Conservation status

Least Concern
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Abies
Species: A. balsamea
Binomial name
Abies balsamea
(L.) Mill.


The Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) is a North American fir, native to most of eastern and central Canada (Newfoundland west to central Alberta) and the northeastern United States (Minnesota east to Maine, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to West Virginia).[1]

  It is a small to medium-size evergreen tree typically 14-20 m tall, rarely to 27 m tall, with a narrow conic crown. The bark on young trees is smooth, grey, and with resin blisters (which tend to spray when ruptured), becoming rough and fissured or scaly on old trees. The leaves are flat needle-like, 1.5-3 cm long, dark green above often with a small patch of stomata near the tip, and two white stomatal bands below, and a slightly notched tip. They are arranged spirally on the shoot, but with the leaf bases twisted to appear in two more-or-less horizontal rows. The cones are erect, 4-8 cm long, dark purple, ripening brown and disintegrating to release the winged seeds in September.

There are two varieties:

  • Abies balsamea var. balsamea (Balsam Fir) - bract scales short, not visible on the closed cones. Most of the species' range.
  • Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis (Bracted Balsam Fir or Canaan Fir) - bract scales longer, visible on the closed cone. The southeast of the species' range, from southernmost Quebec to West Virginia. The name 'Canaan Fir' derives from one of its native localities, the Canaan Valley in West Virginia. Some botanists regard this variety as a natural hybrid between Balsam Fir and Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri), which occurs further south in the Appalachian Mountains.


On exposed ridges and mountain tops, stands of balsam fir occasionally develop fir waves. Often found in association with black spruce, white spruce and trembling aspen..

This tree provides food for moose, American red squirrels, crossbills and chickadees, as well as shelter for moose, snowshoe hares, white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse and other small mammals and songbirds. The needles are eaten by some lepidopteran caterpillars, for example the Io moth (Automeris io).


The resin is used to produce Canada balsam, and was traditionally used as a cold remedy and as a glue for glass and optical instrument components. The wood is used for paper manufacture and is also a popular Christmas tree

Balsam Fir is the Provincial tree of New Brunswick.


  1. ^ PLANTS Profile for Abies balsamea (balsam fir). Retrieved on 2007-07-17.
  • Conifer Specialist Group (1998). Abies balsamea. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
  • Gymnosperm Database: Abies balsamea
  • Flora of North America
  • Karen Legasy, Shayna LaBelle-Beadman & Brenda Chambers. Forest Plants of Northeastern Ontario. Lone Pine Publishing / Queen's Printer for Ontario, 1995.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Abies_balsamea". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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