Module 1: Introduction to Silviculture

Silvics of Balsam Fir

(Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.)

Common names:
- fir, balsam, Canada balsam

Field identification aids:
- only native softwood with resin blisters on the bark that exude a sticky resin
- typical Christmas tree smell (balsam)
- flat needle does not roll easily between fingers
- tip of needle is blunt
- needles are dark, shiny green above with two white lines underneath
- Shoots are soft when squeezed
- only native conifer with upright cones

Average mature tree:
- 40 to 50 years old
- 12 m to 18 m (40' to 60') tall
- 20 cm to 36 cm (8" to 14") in diameter at breast height

Maximum life span:
- 150 years

Shade Tolerance:
- very tolerant

- shallow, wide-spreading roots

- not windfirm

- reproduces by seed
- tree may begin to produce seed as early as 15 years old with full crop production after 30 years
- good crops can be expected every 2 to 4 years
- best seed germination occurs on moist mineral soils or humus

Growing sites:
- adaptable to a variety of soils
- best growth on moist and well-drained sites
Associated Species:
- forms pure stands on poorly-drained sites
- grows in association with almost all native trees
- most commonly found with spruces, hemlock, birch and aspen.

Principal damaging agents:
- spruce budworm, balsam woolly adelgid, white tussock moth, hemlock looper, balsam fir sawfly, porcupines

- balsam fir comprises 17.9% of the merchantable volume in Nova Scotia
- principal Christmas tree species due to high needle retention
- after about 40 years old, fir tends to develop butt rot that reduces its value as pulpwood and logs
- often regenerates in abundance after clearcutting

Quick ID:
Balsam fir has soft needles 'Fir is Friendly'

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