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Balsam fir

Closeup of balsam fir tree branches and purple cones

Balsam fir

TreeNA graphic showing Balsam Fir info and images

About the balsam fir tree

Balsam fir (northern balsam, Canada balsam) - Abies balsamea

Identification: Cold-loving balsam fir trees are identified by their dark, glossy green needles, pyramid-shaped crowns and spicy balsam scent. Needles are flat, about an inch in length and evergreen. This tree produces upward-growing, 4-6 inch purplish cones that turn gray-brown as they mature. Bark is smooth, thin and gray with blisters that ooze sticky resin.

Height: 40-80 feet 

Preferences: Full sun to full shade. Hardiness zones 3-5. Prefers moist, cool areas.

Wildlife value: Forest-dwelling birds like grouse, moose and deer and small mammals eat the seeds and buds of the balsam fir. Its dense foliage makes it important to wildlife for cover and shelter. 

Uses: The spicy fragrance and spire-like crown of the balsam fir make it a popular choice for Christmas trees, wreaths and other winter decor. It is used in landscaping as a windbreak or privacy screen.

Historically, the resin from this tree was used to mount specimens under microscope slides and was also used as an ingredient in oil paint.