Abies balsamea is a
native species in our area, abundant in northern forests
and not popular as a yard or street tree, although it is
a favorite for Christmas trees. The needles are flat and
tend to be arranged such that they are entirely or nearly
in one plane, i.e. they mostly point out from either side
of the branch, but not to the bottom and top (they are attached
all around the twigs, but they twist so that most project
laterally--see photo of "branch" above). The broad, roundish leaf bases shown above will
distinguish this species from the similar Tsuga
canadensis. Unlike most of our Gymnosperms, the
cones point upward from the branches and the cone scales
fall off at maturity, therefore mature cones are rarely
seen intact. The bark tends to develop "blisters"
of sticky and highly aromatic resin, often referred to as
Abies balsamea is decidedly
northern, ranging across the eastern 2/3 of Canada north
to James Bay and south through northern Minnesota and Wisconsin
to New York and New England (and extending farther south
to a few outliers in the Appalachian Mountains and NE Iowa).
It is widely distributed throughout northern Wisconsin and
in some areas it is an important component of the forest.
It is found in a variety of communities, including swamps
where it is often found with Thuja occidentalis,
and in several characteristically northern upland forests.