Balsam fir, Canada balsam, Blister Fir
Pinaceae or Pine
Latin name for silver fir
Balsam fir, Canada balsam, Blister
aromatic conical-shaped evergreen tree usually reaches a height of 45
to 60 feet. It is found in forests in the northern half of Wisconsin and
prefers well-drained, somewhat acidic, sandy loam soil.
It is a climax tree, appearing years after fire opens a forest to light, growing well in dense shade. It can be found in upland and lowland forest of all conifers or mixed with deciduous trees as well in swamps and boreal forests. It even tolerates soils of pure sand.
The 2 - 4 inch cones, standing erect, appear on the top-most branches during the summer months.
In the fall the cone breaks into pieces dropping its scales and seeds.
The single blunt needles are flat, whitish below and 3/8 - 1 1/4 inch long encircling the stem at almost right angles.
It is a traditional favorite for Christmas trees because of its shape and aroma. It was used
extensively by Naive Americans as charms in sweatbath ceremonies and as
medicine to relieve the symptoms of respiration difficulties, sore throats,
headache, muscle pain, sores, and colic. They also used the sap as chewing
gum and the leaves as tea. The sap was used as a sealant, the young tree for
poles and animal traps, and the branches as pillows and insulation in spearing
tents. It is presently used extensively as a pulp wood and in light frame
construction. Squirrels and birds rely on the seeds for food and the
branches for shelter in the long winter months. Deer will sometimes browse
on the leaves when food is scarce.
Other facts: Blisters of resin appear on the bark of old trees, from which it gets one of its common names. The Balsam fir is the least fire resistant of evergreen in North America, and its seeds are destroyed by fire.
Collect the seed in the fall and then store it for a while in below freezing
conditions (cold stratification) before planting. Only about 20%-50% of the
seeds will germination and normally remain viable for less than a year.
Seeds germinate between late May and early July.
Blooming Buddies include: Trees: spruce (Picea), aspen (Populus), birch (Betula). Flowers: twinflower (Linnaea borealis L. subsp. americana ), bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), starflower (Trientalis borealis subsp. borealis), creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula), Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense). Ferns: cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), and spinulose woodfern (Dryopteris carthusiana).