Balsam Fir

Abies balsamea

Family Pinaceae


Notable Features
Leaves: The stalkless leaves of this evergreen* are small glossy needles up to 1¼ inches (3 centimeters) in length. There are two parallel white lines running along the length of the underside of each needle, and the bases of the needles are somewhat enlarged.
Twigs: The twigs are smooth and glossy, even after the needles are removed. Needles come out of the twigs in flattened clusters.
Bark: Bark is smooth and gray, with blisters full of resin all over its surface.
Cones: The Balsam Fir produces erect cones 1-3 inches (2½ to 7½ centimeters) in length. The color of the cones varies from purple to green.
Size/Shape: A conical conifer*, which grows up to 60 feet in height.

Location on Campus

(click for map)

The only Balsam Fir on campus is found just South of the information booth at the main entrance to Brandeis.

Uses
The resin contained in the blisters seen at the surface of the bark contains a rich supply of nutrients and can be consumed in times of need. Also, the soft inner bark of the tree can be collected, dried, ground into a meal and added to existing supplies of flour to extend supply. Both edible parts of the Balsam Fir are extremely nourishing, but are used as a source of food in emergency situations only due to their disagreeable flavor.

Except where specifically noted, all text, photographs, and drawings copyright Chris Bersbach and Lisa Leombruni 2002. No part of this page may be reproduced without the express permission of the authors.