Balsam fir (Abies balsamea)

Balsam fir needles photograph;  MN DNR, Rick Klevorn
Balsam fir cones photograph; MN DNR, Rick Klevorn

Form

Medium size; height 40' to 60' with continuous straight tapering trunk from root to top; diameter 9" to 20" or more; spreading branches form a handsome, symmetrical, slender pyramid.

Bark

Smooth, grayish, prominently marked by blisters filled with resin or balsam pitch.

Leaf

Needlelike, but flat; length 1/2" to 1" with rounded point; dark green and lustrous above and silvery-white beneath; arranged on twig apparently in two ranks; resinous and fragrant.

Fruit (seed)

Cones upright on branches, purple, oblong; length 2" to 4"; become ripe in the autumn of the first year; cone scale wider than long; seeds have very wide wings and, when ripe, fall together with the scales of the cone, leaving the hard central axis standing upright on twig like a spike.

Range

Found in the forests of northern Minnesota and in a few scattered localities in the southeastern corner of the state; usually associated with white spruce, from which it can easily be distinguished by its large upright cones and soft leaves; thrives in cool, damp, places; very shade tolerant.