Being a member of the pine family and having flat needle-like leaves are some common balsam fir tree facts. This evergreen plant has small to medium sizes and deluges in northern region forests of the Adirondacks. The average lifespan of Abies balsamea is about 150 to 200 years. Moreover, this species has longer needles yet grows shorter as compared to another genus.
The scientific name of balsam fir is Abies balsamea shows its characteristics. The word Abies means long-lived, so this tree has a hundred years of lifespan. Then, balsamea points to the fragrant resin that gives a pleasant smell to the trees.
Have a look at the following information about balsam fir tree facts with the varieties, benefits, uses, problems, and more. Be familiar with the foliage that has soft needles and enjoy the elegant form of the plant.
Balsam Fir Tree Cultivars
This ornamental friendly-touch foliage has a lot of varieties such as Marginata, Pyramidalis, Globosa, Argentea, and Coerulea. Each tree has specific characteristics that differ from one to the other. The physical appearances are not the same, too. Here are three balsam fir tree cultivars with the features.
Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis (Canaan Fir or Bracted Balsam Fir)
Canaan fir is native to the mountains of West Virginia. Its name is taken from the valley in that area. This foliage grows up to 17 meters height and 8 meters wide. It features a spire-shaped tip on the pyramidal crown with a dark and bluish-green hue. The best ability of bracted balsam tree is growing in a place where other species cannot resist.
Moreover, the facts about this Canaan fir are its ability to tolerate poor drainage soil and grow well in deep loam with abundant moistness. It will also prosper in wet ground and cold weather. In the fall or spring, this foliage is successfully grown from a pot. This conifer exclusively procreates from seeds or a group of plants in West Virginia.
Abies balsamea cv. Nana (Dwarf Balsam Fir)
The branches of dwarf balsam fir spread horizontally to form a globe-like shrub rather than a pyramidal tree. Its leaves that come with dark green hue are compact and aromatic. It is suitable for rock gardens in cooler summer areas. Also, Nana can function as beautiful landscape edging.
If you want to growing Nana the facts that you must know they are required full of sun and regular watering to keep the ground surface moist. The shrub matures to about 61 centimeters height and 91 centimeters width with a slow growth rate. This easy-care plant is bird-friendly that offers year-round interest.
It becomes a great specimen as a bonsai to pair with some companion plants. For instance, there are Dogwood, Ninebark, Pine, and Smoke tree. Brighter groundcovers create a perfect combination with the dwarf evergreen.
Hudson Fir Balsam Tree
Similar to Nana, Hudson fir belongs to a dwarf variety. It makes a low rounded mound with 2 centimeters long of dark green needles. This bushy cultivar grows well in sheltered areas with partial sunlight.
To growing hudson fir you need to know about water and soil requirements. Hudsonia needs an occasional watering to create sufficient moisture. Besides, this plant can grow in some soil types such as loam, sand, and clay.
Hudson fir propagates by grafting, but it produces no cones. This shrub requires no pruning at all. Be aware of any affection from pests. Adelgids and aphids usually strike the plant.
Interesting Facts of Balsam Fir Tree
One of the interesting facts is the Hudson fir that has received an award due to its performance as an ornamental tree. Abies balsamea also becomes an official logo of New Brunswick in Canada. This species can reach 25 meters in height, although the average length is only 49 feet. The lower branches grow widely to the ground, while the top part is forming a pointed crown.
The most popular facts about balsam fir tree are it’s enchanting fragrance and decorative. These plants are the best options for Christmas trees. After they have been cut in a few weeks, the aroma remains on the trunks. Furthermore, the resin has both aromatic smell and antiseptic properties. It is useful for cleaning teeth.
Balsam Fir Tree Identification
Balsam fir tree feature some characteristics such as flat green needles, smooth gray barks, and purplish cones. These are the keys to differentiate this evergreen from other conifers.
Balsam Fir Leaves
The leaves are 2 centimeters long with a few pale white lines on the lower needles. They have a spiral arrangement on smooth twigs. At the bottom part of the branches, bases of the leaf appear in two horizontal rows.
Balsam Fir Cones
Abies balsamea show that the young foliage produces the cones at the age of 15. The dark purple color turns into a grayish-brown hue as the fruits mature. They consist of seeds that function as tree propagation. The grain production starts at 30 years old.
The cones, both male and female, appear in the top part of the tree. They are about 1 to 8 centimeters long. The conical fruits stand erect on the branches.
Since the cones grow upright from the upper branches, they cannot be obtained. While getting mature and dry, the fruits break into small pieces instead of falling to the ground. Therefore, you will not find them on the soil surface.
Balsam Fir Barks
The barks contain many resin blisters. These thin layers usually break into untypical brownish scales as they mature. At maturity, the smooth tissue will turn into rough and scaly.
The tree barks looks resemble swelling cysts on the surface. They are useful for the tree’s defense system to protect from pathogens and insects. Inside each blister contains a fragrant clear resin called pitch. It gives a nutritious function to the plant.
Balsam Fir Tree Benefits
The conifer that has a slow growth rate offers some benefits such as food supplies and breeding habitat for a few species of birds. Moreover, this foliage is mostly used for wood construction. Crates, paneling, plywood, and barrels are some products of Abies balsamea instead of its economic value as an ornamental object.
Balsam Fir Wildlife Value
In facts balsam fir had some important roles in supporting the wildlife. Game birds and mammals use the young conifer as a cover during the winter. White-tailed deer and moose feed on this plant as their winter food. The seeds are useful for rodents like Eastern chipmunks and red squirrels. Also, Adirondack mammals and woodpeckers eat the barks as food.
Eight species of songbirds like crossbill directly eat the seeds from the cones. Several birds of Adirondacks also use balsam fir tree as a nest site. Besides, it becomes the breeding habitat for boreal owl, Evening grosbeak, Mourning warbler, White-throated sparrow, and many other species.
Balsam Fir Uses
Balsam fir are used as medicinal purposes. The fragrant resin of this plant becomes effective healing and antiseptic. It can cure wounds, burns, sores, and bruises. The leaves can be drunk as a tea to treat colds, fevers, and coughs.
Furthermore, balsam fir can be use to create a herb powder by grinding dried inner bark. Mix it with cereals to make bread. You can use this part to thicken the soups. Besides, the pitch’s oleoresin is used in drinks, sweets, and ice creams as a flavoring.
Growing Conditions for Balsam Fir
The suitable habitat for balsam fir is boreal or conifer forests with Eastern white pine. It also commonly grows with maples, birches, and beech species. This foliage can thrive in damaged areas with the poorly drained ground. Thus, you can find the varieties of conifers in Black spruce, Northern white cedar swamp, Alpine Krummholz, ice cave Talus community, and others.
The specific habitats instead of forests are edges of wetlands, swamps, and terrestrial. Balsam fir show that the plants can grow in full sun and shady areas. The young foliage needs partial shade, while the big trees are directly exposed to sunlight. Since these conifers are not drought-resistant, make sure that there is enough mulch on the ground surface.
Problems of Balsam Firs
Even though balsam fir are tree that really good to drought-resistant notice that this species is not free from pests and diseases. In a hot environment, spider mites usually damage the plants. It also faces some diseases such as root rot, cankers, twig blight, and needle rust. Urban pollution is very harmful to the conifers. Additionally, other problems come from scale, spruce budworms, bark beetles, aphids, and bagworms.
As time goes by and with the help of scientific development we could find some options to cure diseases such as growing the resistant species. As treatment for root rot, consider removing the stumps and treat them with borax to avoid infection. Also, cultivate and ditch the field to improve drainage.
Cankers are balsam fir diseases that are associated with dead branches. To treat this problem is by destroying the part of trees that have the symptoms. Do not regrow new plants near the infected foliage. Then, there is also needle blight that should be managed, too. Older needles on lower branches become complete browning after being infected by fungi. Spray protective fungicides, manage basal pruning, and enhance weed control to solve it.
Finally, from balsam fir tree, we can conclude that this species has a whimsical form with an aromatic smell that can bring to a pleasant ambiance. Instead of the decorative look, this conifer offers a lot of benefits for medicinal uses and wildlife.