Closeup of Needles & Twig, Balsam Fir (Abies balsaea)

Photo of Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

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This photo shows a closeup of the needles and twig of a balsam fir (Abies balsamea).

Note the flat needles with green suction-cup bases. This characteristic helps to easily distinguish firs (Abies sp.) from spruce (Picea sp.); spruce needles are instead attached to the twig with a woody appendage that is narrower and not green.

The needles are also blunt-tipped. Spruce needles, by comparison, are diamond-shaped in cross section, not flat, and are sharper-pointed.

Photographer & Copyright

© Judy Gallagher

Photo Source

CC BY 4.0

Inclusion in Plant ID / Comparison Guides

This photo is featured in 3 plant ID/comparison guides:

collage of Eastern Hemlock and Balsam Fir

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) vs. Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

Updated July 28th, 2020

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.

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collage of White Spruce and Balsam Fir

White Spruce (Picea glauca) vs. Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

Updated December 29th, 2019

Balsam fir and white spruce are sometimes confused where they overlap; balsam fir grown in sun can have a similar bluish color to its foliage and the needle shape and arrangement can look more similar than when in shade. Both can occupy late stages in forest succession and be found in similar habitats. The two species are easily told apart by a close look at their needles, by crushing and smelling the needles, by cones, and by bark.

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The other guide is not yet completed and published.