Balsam fir is native to the far northern parts of the United States, up into Canada. This evergreen tree has flat, dark green needles with a strong balsam scent. Balsam fir makes a striking figure in the landscape with its narrowly-pyramidal shape, but it does best in cooler northern climates.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
- North America
- Large tree (more than 40 feet),
- Small tree (15-25 feet),
- Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
- Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
- Zone 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago)
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Early winter,
- Mid winter,
- Late winter,
- Early spring,
- Mid spring,
- Late spring,
- Early summer,
- Mid summer,
- Late summer,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall,
- Late fall
Size and Form
50 to 75 feet high and 20 to 35 feet wide; relatively narrow pyramidal form.
Tree & Plant Care
Balsam firm is very cold hardy, but does not do well in hot, humid summers.
It prefers an acid, well drained soil, but can tolerate sites that are more consistently moist. Does poorly on dry exposed sites.
Full sun to full shade.
Disease, pests, and problems
Insect and diseases are not common, but cankers and woolly aphids can occur.
This tree is very shallow rooted and is prone to wind throw.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to the far northern parts of the United States, up into Canada.
Bark color and texture
Smooth when young, becoming slightly furrowed with age.
Green, maturing to red-brown.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Evergreen needles; flat, dark green, attached singly to the stem.
About one inch long with a strong balsam fragrance.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Inconspicuous flowers; males yellow and females red-purple.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Mature cones upright, dark purple maturing to purplish-brown; 2 to 4 inches tall.
When ripe, the individual scales of the cone fall away leaving the center stalk.
Cultivars and their differences
Piccolo balsam fir (Abies balsamea 'Piccolo'): A dwarf cultivar (2 feet by 2 feet), with fine texture.
Tyler Blue balsam fir (Abies balsamea 'Tyler Blue'): A cultivar with blue needles; 25 feet high and 15 feet wide.
Weeping Larry balsam fir (Abies balsamea 'Weeping Larry'): A very narrow form with pendulous branches.