Balsam Firs (Abies basamea) in a Swampy Roadside Area

Photo of Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

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This photo shows a community of balsam firs (Abies balsamea) growing in a swampy area along a roadside in upstate New York. You can see the distinctive narrow, conical growth habit of this species clearly in this photo. If you look closely, you will notice that branches are mostly horizontal: even larger lower branches do not droop much, yet upper branches are only weakly ascending. These trees have also retained nearly all their foliage the whole way to the base; this reflects the shade-tolerance of this species, that it is able to retain photosynthetic efficiency even with relatively low light levels.

Balsam fir inhabits a wide range of habitats; this one is probably towards the wetter end of where it can be found; it can also be found on mesic sites and in drier uplands.

Photographer & Copyright

© Doug Goldman

Photo Source

CC BY 4.0

Inclusion in Plant ID / Comparison Guides

This photo is featured in 2 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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