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Balsam Fir  Abies balsamea  Balm of Gilead

Zone 3-6 

Height 40-60' Spread 20-30' rarely to 100'

 

Habitat.  Balsam fir is an open, pyramidal tree, with stiff, horizontal branches, ending in stout, yellowish-brown, fuzzy twigs, with crowded shiny foliage.  Grows best on fertile, moist, well drained or swampy soils associated with tamarack and white cedar. Can grow on dry sandy soils once established. It is somewhat of a short lived tree rarely over 90 years old. Balsam is a good Christmas tree for wetter soils. Commonly 40-60' high, rarely to 80' with a trunk diameter of 1-2'. It is reduced to shrub like sizes on the mountaintops. Some years ago while hiking to the top of Mt Marcy in New York my brother and I came to an exposed area at about 4,500' that was all balsam fir. It was somewhat of an unreal sight as the path wound through a field of 6' high balsam shrubs. By the way, my brother made it to the top of Mt Marcy but I didn't. My ankle was acting up and we had a 10 mile hike out so I had to save the wear and tear on it for the trip out. Needless to say, I had a very pleasant sit amongst the Balsam fir as he sprinted to the top.

Leaves. The needles of the balsam fir are a lustrous dark green above, aromatic, pale beneath, narrow and straight, blunt, flat 1/2 to 1" long with a notched tip. Scattered, spirally arranged in rows, on young balsam fir extending from all sides of the branch, on old trees covering the upper side of the branch. 

Flowers. Balsam fir flower in May, 1/4" long, male catkins.

Fruit. The cones of the Balsam Fir are erect as in all true firs, 2-4" long and 1" wide, purple when new, browning with age and leaving a stem as the seed fall off. The young cones are in my opinion a real spring visual treat, be sure to look for them this June. The seed are about 1/4" long it takes about 50,000 to make a pound.

Winter Buds. The buds are small resinous and brown.

Bark. Mature trunks on Balsam Fir is rough cinnamon-red, thin, scaly, at length becoming gray, younger trees bark is smooth grayish and resinous.

Wood. The wood is light, soft, weak, coarse- grain with wide rings and lighter colored sapwood, used locally as lumber but mainly pulp wood and also box & crates and of course logs for cabins wood. balsam fir wood weighs 25 pounds per cubic foot.

Pests. The balsam wooly adelgid and spruce budworm are major pests. In the early 20th century the overcutting of the white pine forests in the Midwest caused spruce and fir to take over the land that white pine dominated. This in turn made fertile ground for the spruce budworm which destroyed millions of cords of balsam fir.  These can be generally treated with an application of Sevin.

Distribution. Balsam fir are typically a cold climate tree. Balsam Fir is found from Maine to Michigan and south in the higher elevations of the Appalachian mountains above 4,000 feet in the south. I have found Balsam Fir growing on the top of Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia on our trip in 2007. Balsam fir is the only native fir of the northeastern states. Can be seen growing from barren rock in it's native range. In Michigan it is generally found in spruce, hemlock, fir swamps.

Other.  Fine Christmas tree though the Fraser and Douglas fir are more in demand. We have a balsam fir Christmas tree in our living room and as of today ( Feb 10th ) the needles are still firmly attached. I last watered it on December 31. We went to California for a month and I left it up..... 

The sap was once used to mount specimens on microscope slides. The needles of balsam fir were once used in pillows to add an aromatic flavor to ones sleep. We have beautiful Balsam Fir here at the farm for U-Cut or We Cut Christmas tree sales.

Cultivars. hudsonia- 1-2' tall, rare.

 

 

 

We have Balsam Fir up to 12' tall. Call for B+B prices.

To buy balsam fire seedlings by PHONE: We're glad to take your order by phone. For your convenience, we have a toll free number  800 568-9179.  Phone orders can be charged to VISA or MasterCard accounts.

To buy balsam fir seedling by MAIL: For those who wish to order by mail or prefer to send a check, send orders to: Porcupine Hollow Farm   8593 W. Old State Rd.  Central Lake, Mi. 49622

To order balsam fir seedlings using our secure shopping cart:

Balsam fir 1
Plant Type Age Size Quanity / Price
Fir-Balsam 2-0 3-7"
  2-0 5-12"
  2-2 6-12"
  2-2 8-14"
  2-2 12-22"
 

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Please include 20% shipping and packaging with your order.

    Minimum shipping $15    

Michigan Residents add 6% sales tax.