Balsam fir is a small to medium sized coniferous tree. Growth occurs in whorls of branches surrounding an upright leader or terminal, making a symmetrical tree with a broad base and narrow top. It is relatively short-lived and is considered a sub-climax type species in the New England states, but may be a climax type in the zone below timberline.
Needles are 3/4 to 1 inch long, flat, and often strongly curved. Twigs with needles have a generally flattened appearance. Both male and female flowers are found on the same branch. Cones are 2 to 4 inches long, purplish in color, and stand erect on branches (as do those of all true firs). There are about 60,000 seeds in a pound. The bark is smooth, thin, and grayish, distinguished by soft blisters containing a clear, odiferous resin known as Canadian balsam.
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