This series explores some of the amazing flora and fauna that the BTC is working to protect by acquiring and stewarding land along the Niagara Escarpment.

Look for signs of these species on your next hike.

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This month's Niagara Escarpment species:

Balsam Fir(Abies balsamea)

 

Balsam fir

Photo: :  US Fish and Wildlife Service

Did You Know? 

Makes a great Christmas tree as the needles stay attached for a long time

 

This tree is classified amongst the coniferous softwoods, meaning it keeps its needles year round through all seasons.

 

The Latin name means; Abies=Fir and balsamea=Balsam producing

 

 

Habitat -Grows best swamps or drier ground on rocky slopes and mountains.

 Size - Small to medium sized trees, averaging 14-20 meters high and 90-100 centimeters in diameter. Can reach 200 years old or more.

Range - This tree can be found in most of eastern and central Canada and the north eastern United States

Status - Ontario Status: S5, Secure. Canadian Status: Secure.

 


Balsam barkBalsam branch

Identification

Balsam fir is a small to medium-size evergreen tree with a conic shape. The needles are dark green, flat and dense with two white bands running lenghways on the underside. They tend to have a sharp tip on the end of the needles. They are arranged spirally on the branch, but with the bases twisted so that they appear to be in two more-or- less horizontal rows on either side of the branch. The bark on young trees is smooth, grey, and with resin blisters becoming rough and fissured or scaly on old trees. The pollen cones are red, purple, bluish, green or orange and 3-5mm long. Seed cones are erect and cylindrical,  dark purple, ripening to brown and 4-10cm long.     

 Photo:Bark:USDA Forest Service

Branch:Superior Forest Service


Interesting Facts

The sap or resin is used to produce Canada balsam, and was traditionally used as a cold remedy and as a glue for glasses, optical instrument components, and for preparing permanent mounts of microscope specimens. If you press on the "bubbles" on the bark they will pop with resin.

Its other uses include its fragrance in air fresheners and candles, pulp and paper industry and other lumber products, oil is used as a rodent repellant and several other medicinal uses.

The tree parts provide food for a variety of animals including Squirrels, moose and many birds and the branches provide shelter for deer, snowshoe hares, small rodents, Ruffed Grouse and many other songbirds.


Balsam Fir on the Niagara Escarpment

The Bruce Trail Conservancy is continually acquiring and protecting land along the Niagara Escarpment, including forested slopes and wetlands that provides a perfect place for the Balsam Fir tree to grow. You will be able to see this tree in higher numbers as you progress north along the Niagara Escarpment and the Bruce Trail. In fact some of our northern properties are dominated by this conifer.