Home » Compare Plants

Eastern Hemlock vs Balsam Fir

These species are easily distinguished, but are sometimes confused by people inexperienced in conifer identification, especially when comparing hemlocks to firs growing in shade, as the needle arrangement of such firs is flatter along the twig and superficially looks much like hemlock.

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

A large, shade-tolerant evergreen conifer native to the Appalacians and northeastern U.S.
An evergreen conifer native to North America, and a late-successional species found in areas that have not been disturbed recently. The only fir found in the northeast.
Needles average shorter, and are attached to twig with a narrow stem attached to a short, woody projection from the stem.
Needles average longer, and are attached to twig with a green suction-cup base.
Much smaller, dangling cones.
Much larger, upright cones.
Bark of mature trees has long vertical ridges and plates; lacks resin blisters.
Bark smooth and with subtle horizontal lines. Often shows resin blisters, rounded puffed up areas where the bark has been damaged.
Silhouette looks more feathery, growth habit usually broader and less regular. Foliage tends to droop.
Growth habit narrow and neatly conical. Branches ascend and foliage is more erect.