Friday, February 10, 2017
Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)
Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), is a small to medium sized evergreen tree that reaches heights of between 40-60 feet tall and grows in a pyramidal form. Balsam grows in an upright pyramidal form. It is commercially important within it's native growth range, it is harvested for pulpwood, light frame construction material and as a Christmas tree. Balsam is a close second to the Fraser as a popular Christmas tree variety, they are very similar to one another in many aspects. Many types of wildlife, birds and mammals rely on the Balsam Fir for protection from the weather and for food from twigs and seeds. Considered a Canadian tree, it is found growing south through the Northern edges of Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Iowa and most of New England.
Image Citation: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
The short awl shaped needles are flat and long lasting, they have a series of light stripes along the bottom that make the needles appear silver gray from below. On lower branches needles occur in two rows along sides of the branch, 3/4 - 1 1/2 inches long, spreading in form and not crowded. On older branches, the needles tend to be shorter and curved upward covering the upper sides of the twigs. Yields cones 2–4" in length that start out dark purple, turning gray-brown and resinous at maturity. Once the seeds are ripe, the scales fall off, leaving only the central axis of the cone in spike like stems on the branches. Seed crops occur at 2–4 year intervals and when present the small cones stand erect on branches the first year.
Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org
Balsam Fir is recommended for hardiness zones 3-5, and is a slow growing gaining less then 12 inches each year. This variety prefers full sun or partial shade, with four hours of unfiltered light recommended daily and cool, moist, well drained soils. The Balsam was named for the resin (also called balsam) that is found on the bark ridges and wounds, this resin was used during the civil war to treat wounds.