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balsam fir Abies balsamea play

Balsam fir is an important conifer of the northernmost parts of eastern and central U.S. and Canada. It is both commercially useful and integral to the survival many species of northern wildlife.

range map Click to see more images. wood grain

Balsam fir is very shade tolerant and is regenerated by shelterwood and group selection methods. Because of its shade tolerance, advanced regeneration is often in great abundance in the understory.

Balsam fir is found in cold climates, and requires abundant moisture for best growth.


Balsam fir is a small to medium sized tree reaching 80 feet tall with a very narrow, spire-like crown.

Timber Value
Balsam fir is used for light frame construction lumber, cabin logs, paneling, crates, pulpwood, and Christmas trees and wreaths.

Wildlife Value
Balsam fir provides a variety of wildlife with food and cover. Moose eat the vegetation extensively in the winter. Black bears strip off the bark and lick the exposed tissue.
Attracts mice, voles, red squirrels, birds, deer, moose, black bear

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Balsam fir is a common Christmas tree, and the foliage is often used for decoration. Wood is often used as pulpwood. Oleoresin, or Canada balsam, is a gummy substance found within the bubbles of balsam fir's bark. It was once used as the primary medium for mounting microscope slides.

Latin Meaning
Abies: ancient name - rising or tall tree, name for the European fir / balsamea: balsam-producing

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.