Ontario Trees & Shrubs website

Balsam Fir
Abies balsamea

Other common names: Canada Balsam

French names: Sapin baumier

Family: Pine Family (Pinaceae)

Group: Firs

Distinctive features: Tree; Flat needles.

Similar species:
  •   Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) - very similar; needels shorter, more spread apart.

  •   Yew (Taxus canadensis) - a sprawling shrub, and its needles are green underneath.

Leaves: Flat needles.

Habitat: Forests;  Forests.

Edible: The needles make a nice bush tea.

Books: Trees in Canada: 84   

Native/Non-native: Native

Status: Very common.

Photographs: 169 photographs available, of which 5 are featured on this page. SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOGRAPHS.

Range Map is at the bottom of the page

Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

Balsam Fir needles resemble those of Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), except they are longer. They are also attached to the twig with a tiny disk. Eastern Hemlock needles are attached with a tiny stem. The needles have a white stripe underneath (not shown).

A delicious tea can be made from Balsam Fir needles. Be sure to add the needles to the hot water after it has been removed from the source of heat. If you boil the needles with the water, the tea will taste of turpentine!

Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

Balsam Fir bark and trunks often have numerous small blisters filled with sap. The picture on the left shows these really well.

Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

Here is a picture showing the overall shape and form of the Balsam Fir.

Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

Balsam Fir sap exhibits a rather unusual phenomenon. When fresh liquid sap is dabbed onto the end of a twig and placed on the surface of the water, the sap acts as a "motor", propelling the twig away.

Click here to view a movie of this actually happening (741KB, MPEG format).

Range map for Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

PLEASE NOTE: A coloured Province or State means this species occurs somewhere in that Province/State.
The entire Province/State is coloured, regardless of where in that Province/State it occurs.

(Range map provided courtesy of the USDA website and is displayed here in accordance with their Policies)