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Balsam Fir, Abies balsamea

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

It is a small to medium-size evergreen tree from 45 to 65 feet tall, with a narrow conic crown. Few balsams may grow to over 85 feet tall. The bark on young trees is smooth, gray, and with resin blisters that become rough and fissured or scaly on old trees. The leaves are flat needle-like, dark green above, often with a small patch of stomata near the tip, and two white stomata 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, 1.5 to 3 inches long, dark purple, ripening brown and disintegrating to release the winged seeds in September.

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.

Balsam Fir Abies balsamea


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