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Eastern Fir


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Eastern Fir

The Abies Balsamea is commonly known as Balsam, Balsam Fir, Blister Fir, Bracted Balsam Fir, Canada Balsam, Canadian Balsam, as well as Eastern Fir

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Growing Regions

Balsam fir is widely distributed in northeastern North America. It occurs from Newfoundland west across northern Quebec, northern Ontario, central Manitoba, and Saskatchewan to northwestern Alberta, south about 400 miles (640 km) to central Alberta, southeast to northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, and east to New England [21]. In the United States, scattered populations occur in southern Minnesota, southern Wisconsin, northeastern Iowa, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and northern Virginia. The two varieties are distributed as follows [5]: var. balsamea - from Newfoundland and Labrador west to northeastern Alberta and south to Minnesota, Wisconsin, southern Ontario, northern Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. It is local in northeastern Iowa. var. phanerolepis - from Newfoundland and Labrador to Ontario and Maine and in the high mountains of New Hamphire, Vermont, and New York. It is also common in the higher mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.

     

General Information

The currently accepted scientific name of balsam fir is Abies balsamea (L.) Mill [32]. The genus Abies consists of about 40 species of evergreen trees found in the Northern Hemisphere. Nine Abies species, including balsam fir, are native to the United States. Balsam fir is widely distributed and exhibits geographic variation. Two varieties based on morphological differences are recognized [47]: var. balsamea var. phanerolepis Fern. Balsam fir is closely related to Fraser fir (A. fraseri). These species are probably relicts of an ancestral taxon which exhibited north-south clinal variation [24]. Trees in Virginia and West Virginia are possibly hybrids between these two species [32]. Some authorities recognize Fraser fir as a variety of balsam fir: A. b. var. fraseri [21]. Balsam fir hybridizes with subalpine fir (A. lasiocarpa) where their ranges overlap in the Canadian Rockies [24].

Balsam fir is more commonly found in mixed than in pure stands.  It does
occurs as a dominant species in pure stands in Newfoundland, Ontario,
and Quebec.  Its importance as a major forest tree declines west of
Manitoba [5].  Balsam fir is a principal tree of boreal mixed stands in
Canada, where it occurs with paper birch (Betula papyrifera), aspen
(Populus tremuloides), black spruce (Picea mariana), and white spruce
(P. glauca) [46].

In the Lake States, climax stands of balsam fir are relatively uncommon
[21,45].  In Maine, balsam fir forms pure stands on flats between swamps
and uplands [5].  In the Adirondacks, balsam fir sometimes dominates
upper slopes above 3,200 feet (975 m) [5].  In New England and the Lake
States, balsam fir is more commonly found in mixed stands, especially in
forests dominated by black spruce, red spruce (Picea rubens), white
spruce, eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), northern white-cedar (Thuja
occidentalis), paper birch, aspen, and red maple (Acer rubrum)
[5,30,45].

Balsam fir is listed as a dominant part of the vegetation in the
following community type (cts) and ecosystem (eas) classifications:

   Area                  Classification              Authority

PQ: Gaspe Peninsula    forest veg. cts           Zoladeski 1988
ON                     forest eas                Jones & others 1983

Much of the information presented here is attributed to:
Uchytil, Ronald J. 1991. Abies balsamea. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available at USDA Forest Service.

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