Abies balsamea

Balsam Fir, Balm of Gilead




  • native to most of northern United States and into Canada
  • zone 3

Habit and Form

  • evergreen tree
  • 50' to 60' tall by 20' to 30' wide
  • slender, conical shape
  • fine to medium texture
  • slow growth rate

Summer Foliage

  • needles are variable, up to 1" long
  • 2 lateral sets of leaves arranged horizontally, V-shaped parting between sets
  • leaf tip is notched
  • dark, shiny green with 2 white stomatal lines on underside
  • buds are resinous

Autumn Foliage

  • no fall color (evergreen)


  • no ornamental value
  • monoecious


  • brown resinous cones
  • cones shatter soon after maturing
  • cones typically found only in upper third of the canopy
  • 3" to 4" long


  • dull green turning gray with age
  • smooth bark with sporadic resin blisters, even on relatively old trunks
  • new stems are smooth and covered with soft gray hairs


  • easily transplanted because of shallow root system
  • prefers cold climates
  • well-drained, acidic soil
  • dislikes heat and dry air
  • not well-adapted to cultivation

Landscape Uses

  • specimen tree
  • widely used as Christmas tree
  • bird and animal shelter


  • loses nice "Christmas tree" shape with age
  • problem pests and diseases include: spruce budworm, woolly aphid, and several cankers
  • often performs poorly under landscape conditions
  • often damaged by deer

ID Features

  • two-ranked needles in a V-shape
  • new stems covered with gray hairs
  • circular leaf scars
  • smooth bark with resin blisters
  • notched needle tip
  • resinous buds


  • by seed, stratification period required for good germination


'Nana' and 'Hudsonia' - Various dwarf forms of this species are available from specialty dwarf conifer nurseries. The two listed here form small mounds to 2' tall and are suited to rockgardens and similar situations. Most dwarf forms are sterile.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database, http://hort.uconn.edu/plants, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.