Abies balsamea (Lake States) is one of the most significant conifers. It's also known as balsam, Canadian balsam, eastern fir, and bracted balsam fir in its native area. It is a medium-sized evergreen tree belonging to the family Pinaceae. It is native to North America and is found across the northeastern and central parts of the continent, from Alaska and Canada to the northern parts of the United States.
The Balsam Fir typically grows to a height of 15 to 20 meters (50 to 66 feet) at maturity, with a pyramidal shape and dense branches that extend horizontally from the trunk. The tree has a relatively slender trunk, and its bark is smooth and grayish-brown when young, becoming rough and furrowed with age.
The needles of the Balsam Fir are flat and arranged in a spiral pattern along the branches. They are dark green on the upper side and lighter green on the underside, giving the tree a vibrant appearance. The needles measure around 2 to 3 centimeters in length and emit a pleasant fragrance when crushed, often described as a fresh, balsamic scent, which gives the tree its common name.
During spring, the Balsam Fir produces small, cylindrical cones that grow upright on the branches. These cones mature in late summer to early fall, changing from green to brown. They contain numerous small seeds that are dispersed by wind or wildlife, contributing to the tree's reproduction.
The Balsam Fir is known for its adaptability to various soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils, as long as they are well-drained. It prefers cool, humid climates and is often found in higher elevations. The tree is shade-tolerant, especially when young, but it thrives in full sun to partial shade as it matures. This species has both ecological and commercial significance. The Balsam Fir provides cover and nesting sites for various bird species and small mammals.
In summary, the Balsam Fir is a visually appealing evergreen tree with aromatic foliage, making it a popular choice for landscaping and as a Christmas tree. Its fragrance, attractive appearance, and adaptability to different environments contribute to its overall desirability as an ornamental and commercial tree species.