Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Abies balsamea

Balsam Fir

Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Abies balsamea (Balsam fir)
Smith, R.W.
The only fir native to the Northeast, with narrow, pointed, spirelike crown of spreading branches and aromatic foliage.

A major pulpwood species. Interior knotty pine paneling is a special product; Canada balsam, an aromatic oleoresin obtained from swellings or resin blisters in the bark, is used for mounting microscopic specimens and for optical cement. Wood is used for pulp and paper.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Purple, Brown 2-3.5 in.
Size Class: 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green , Purple , Brown
Bloom Time: Sep , Oct , Nov


USA: CT , IN , IA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , NH , NY , OH , PA , RI , VT , VA , WV , WI
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC , SK , YT
Native Distribution: Lab. & Nf. to MN & s. Man., s. to VA & n.e. IA. In North on low, swampy ground to well-drained uplands; in South above 3600 ft.
Native Habitat: Woodland, Riparian, Swamp, Marsh

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained, acid, moist soils.
Conditions Comments: This slow-growing tree loses its lower branches as it matures, but maintains its dense, spire-like habit throughout its life. It needs to be kept cool and moist during the growing season. It is troubled by spruce budworm, woolly aphid and several canker diseases and is heavily browsed by deer. It is very resistant to attack by gypsy moth. The soft foliage makes balsam a favorite Christmas tree.


Use Ornamental: A common Christmas tree species. Christmas trees, wreaths, and balsam pillows utilize the aromatic foliage.
Use Wildlife: Songbirds and squirrels eat seed and deer browse foliage. Deer and moose browse the foliage in winter.
Use Other: Balsam has the fortunate property of refracting light to exactly the same extent that glass does so that the balsam matrix, the cover glass, and the microscope lenses become one optical system with the same refractive index. (Peattie)
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies

Last Update: 2015-04-16