Fraser Fir - Abies fraseri, also known as Balsam, is a coniferous tree, closely related to Balsam Fir. Its range is usually restricted to the south-eastern Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The tree lives in acidic moist but well-drained sandy loam at high elevations (1200-2000 m), usually mixed with Red Spruce. Fraser Fir grows up to 25 m tall, 75 cm in trunk diameter and a 6-12 m spread. The crown is pyramidal with horizontal branches. It is dense when the tree is young, but becomes more open as it ages.
The bark is grey-brown and may become scaly with age. The bark is normally thin and smooth but usually has many resin blisters.
The leaves are needle-like, arranged spirally on the twigs but twisted at the base to spread in two rows. They are 12-25 mm long, flat and flexible with a rounded, notched tip, dark green with two silvery white stomatal bands on the underside. The leaves produce an odor like turpentine.
The cones are 3.5 - 7 cm long, purplish, turning light brown when mature. They are upright, cylindric, and resinous with long reflexed bracts. The scales fall off after the cone matures to release the seeds.
Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis is regarded by some as a hybrid between the Balsam Fir and the Fraser Fir.
Cultivation and uses
Fraser Fir is widely used as a Christmas tree. Its fragrance, appearance, strong twigs, and ability to retain its soft needles for a long time when cut (which do not prick easily when hanging ornaments) make it an excellent choice for this purpose. In the past, it was also sometimes known as ‘She-balsam" because resin could be "milked" from its bark blisters, in contrast to the "He balsam" which was the red spruce which could not be milked