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Abies balsamea

Abies balsamea
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Product Information

Scientific name: Abies balsamea  (Linnaeus) Miller  1768

Synonyms: Abies balsamifera Michx., Abies hudsonia Bosc ex Jacques, Abies minorDuhamel ex Gordon, Peuce balsamea (L.) Rich., Picea balsamea (L.) Loudon, Pinus balsamea L.

Common names: Balsam fir, Eastern fir, Canada balsam, Blister fir, Sapin baumier (French)



Trees to 25 m tall, d.b.h. to 1 m; trunk monopodial, straight, columnar, terete; crown conical. Bark in young trees pale grey, smooth, with prominent resin blisters, in old trees dark greyish brown or blackish, flaking. Branchlets with sparse, short gray hairs, not grooved. Buds 4.5-5.5 mm long, resinous. Needles arranged to the sides on lower branches, curved upward on the top side of the twigs in upper branches, 1.5-2.5 cm long, dark green above, the tips rounded to pointed. Pollen cones 4-6 mm long, of various colors from greenish through reddish tinges to bluish purple. Seed cones oblong, 4-7(-8) cm long, (1.5-)2-3 cm across, dull purple when young, maturing brown. Seed body 3-6 mm long, the wing up to twice as long.

Northeastern North America from northern Labrador to northern Virginia and West Virginia west to central Alberta and northeastern Iowa, and central Minnesota. Forming pure stands or mixed in with other trees in boreal and mixed forests, and to the alpine tree line in montane forests of the central and northern Appalachians and related mountains; 0-1,500(-1,900) m. The climate is cold continental in the interior, cool maritime in the eastern part of the range, with precipitation between 250 and 1,250 mm and very cold winters.


Conservation Status

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern

This is the most widespread species of Abies in North America. It is a component of the great Boreal forest of Canada, a dynamic ecosystem that is destroyed locally by natural causes but regenerates continuously. The typical variety, is assessed as Least Concern. It is a constituent of coniferous forests with Picea spp., Pinus strobus, Tsuga canadensis and sometimes Pinus banksiana, or it grows mixed with broad-leaved trees such as Populus tremuloides, Betula spp. and, further south, Acer spp., Fagus grandifolia and Betula alleghaniensis. Taxus canadensis is the most common conifer shrub in these mixed forests. Balsam Fir is an economically important conifer. Its wood, although of modest size, is used in light-frame construction and for pulpwood. It is also popular as a Christmas tree and is one of the top three species grown for this purpose in E North America. The fragrant needles are partly responsible for this popularity, they are also used to stuff pillows sold as souvenirs in New England. Canada balsam, the aromatic and soft terpenoid resin collected from blisters in the bark, is especially important in Quebec. Its medicinal properties were known to Native Americans, who used it as an antiseptic wound dressing as well as internally for various ills. Lewis and Clark had it in their medicine box on their famous overland expedition to the Pacific Ocean in 1804-05. In modern Western society its medicinal use has been replaced by other salves; the resin is now used to seal microscopic glass slides with biological preparates. In horticulture, Balsam Fir is less valued; this fir is apparently short lived when planted in gardens and only a few dwarf cultivars are known. This species occurs in many protected areas.



  • Farjon, A. (2010). A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
  • Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland.
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Cambridge, UK /Gland, Switzerland

Copyright © Aljos Farjon, James E. Eckenwalder, IUCN, Conifers Garden. All rights reserved.

Product CodeABI61T6Q27
Weight1.5 kg
Height15 - 20 cm

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