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Balsam fir
Tree with cones
Conservation status
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 metres (46–66 ft) tall, rarely to 27 metres (89 ft) 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, 15 to 30 millimetres (½–1 in) 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, 40 to 80 millimetres (1½–3 in) long, dark purple, ripening brown and disintegrating to release the winged seeds in September.


There are two varieties:

  • Abies balsamea var. balsamea (balsam fir) - bracts subtending seed scales short, not visible on the closed cones. Most of the species' range.
  • Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis (bracted balsam fir or Canaan fir) - bracts subtending seed 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 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).


Both varieties of the species are very popular as Christmas trees, particularly in the northeastern United states. The tree itself is a popular Christmas tree. The resin is used to produce Canada balsam, and was traditionally used as a cold remedy and as a glue for glasses, optical instrument components, and for preparing permanent mounts of microscope specimens. The wood is used for paper manufacture. Balsam fir oil is an EPA approved non-toxic rodent repellent.[2]

Tree emblem

The balsam fir is the Provincial tree of New Brunswick.


  1. ^ "PLANTS Profile for Abies balsamea (balsam fir)". Retrieved 2007-07-17. 
  2. ^

External links



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Abies balsamea


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Classis: Pinopsida
Ordo: Pinales
Familia: Pinaceae
Genus: Abies
Sectio: A. sect. Balsamea
Species: Abies balsamea
Varieties: A. b. var. balsamea - A. b. var. phanerolepis


Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.


Pinus balsamea L. (basionym)


  • Miller, P. (1768). Gardener's Dictionary 8th ed.: Abies No. 3.
  • Rhodora: Journal of the New England Botanical Club 34: 190 (1932). Cambridge, MA.

Vernacular names

Česky: Jedle balzámová
Deutsch: Balsam-Tanne
English: Balsam Fir
Español: Abies balsamea
Français: Sapin baumier
Magyar: Balzsamfenyő
Nederlands: Balsemzilverspar
Suomi: Palsamipihta
Svenska: Balsamgran
Türkçe: Balsam göknarı
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Abies balsamea on Wikimedia Commons.


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