Balsam Fir

Abies balsamea


Balsam fir is a tree that is strongly conical in shape. Branches become more dense in the upper third of the tree, emphasizing its steeple-like appearance. Branchlets and twigs do not droop but stand out from the trunk of the tree. Balsam fir is a popular Christmas tree because it has a pleasant odor and its needles do not readily fall off. This tree was found on the top of the Appalachian Gap on VT Rt. 17 in Fayston, VT.
The needles of the Balsam fir are flattened top and bottom, grow in a spiral arrangement around the twig and are roughly 1" (2.5cm) long. The undersides of the needles have two parallel white lines running the length of them. When needles are crushed, they emit a pleasing odor.
Fir cones are distinctive in that they grow upward from the branch rather than hanging below it. Balsam fir cones have a purplish color. Cones are difficult to obtain as they grow mainly in the upper branches of the tree and they disintegrate without falling off, leaving a narrow erect stalk behind.
The bark of the Balsam fir is very smooth, especially on younger bark. Older bark cracks and furrows somewhat, but not nearly as much as some other trees. The smooth bark is also characterized by a number of blisters.
When broken, a sticky resin oozes out of the blisters. In an emergency, this resin can be eaten as it is quite nutritous although it has a foul taste.


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