Abies balsamea

 

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Family: Pinaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Balsam Fir

 

 

 

The genus Abies (True Firs) is composed of about 40 species native to North America [9], Central America [7], Africa [2], Europe [1] and Eurasia [25]. Abies is the classical Latin name of silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) of Europe. The word balsamea is the ancient word for the balsam tree, referring to the resinous pockets or blisters in the bark.

Other Common Names: Abete balsamico, abeto balsamico, abeto oloroso, balm-of-gilead, balm-of-gilead fir, balsam, balsam fir, balsam-gran, balsam-tanne, balsem-den, balsemzilver-den, beaumier de Gilead, blister fir, blister pine, blisters cho-koh-tung, bracted balsam fir, Canadian balsam, Canadian fir, eastern fir, fir pine, firs d'america, fir-tree, Gilead fir, sapin, sapin baumier, sapin beaumier, sapin blanc, sapin rouge, silver fir, silver pine, single pine, single spruce, var.

Distribution: From Newfoundland and Labrador west to northeast Alberta, south and east to southern Manitoba, Minnesota, northeast Iowa, central Wisconsin, central Michigan, southern Ontario, New York, central Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maine.

The Tree: Balsam fir normally reaches heights of 60 feet with diameters of1.5 feet. Trees growing in optimal conditions can reach heights of 90 feet with diameters of 2.5 feet. It grows from sea level to about 6,000 feet.

General Wood Characteristics: The wood is white to pale brown. It is without distinctive odor or taste. It is light weight and soft, has good splitting resistance, is low in shock resistance. Mechanically, it ranks better than white spruce (Picea glauca), and is equal to or less than properties of red (Picea rubens) and black spruce (Picea mariana). It has low nail holding capacity.

 

 

Mechanical Properties (2-inch standard)

 

 

 

 

Compression

 

 

 

 

Specific

gravity

MOE

x106 lbf/in2

MOR

lbf/in2

Parallel

lbf/in2

Perpendicular

lbf/in2

WMLa

in-lbf/in3

Hardness

lbf

Shear

lbf/in2

Green

0.33

1.25

5500

2630

190

4.7

290

660

Dry

0.41

1.45

9200

5280

400

5.1

400

940

aWML = Work to maximum load.

Reference (56).

 

Drying and Shrinkage

Type of shrinkage

Percentage of shrinkage
(green to final moisture content)

0% MC

6% MC

20% MC

Tangential

6.9

5.5

2.3

Radial

2.9

2.3

1.0

Volumetric

11.2

9.0

3.7

References: (178, 56, 192).

Kiln Drying Schedulesa

 

Conventional temperature/moisture content-controlled schedulesa


Condition

4/4, 5/4
stock

6/4 stock

8/4
stock

10/4
stock

12/4
stock

British schedule
4/4 stock

Standard

T12-E5

NA

T10-E4

T8-A4

T8-A4

L

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

aReference (28, 185).

 

Conventional temperature/time-controlled schedulesa

 

Lower grades

Upper grades


Condition

4/4, 5/4 stock

6/4 stock

8/4 stock

4/4, 5/4 stock

6/4 stock

8/4 stock

12/4, 16/4 stock

Standard

291

291

291

294

294

294

288

aReferences (28, 185).

 

High temperaturea


Condition

4/4, 5/4 stock

6/4 stock

8/4 stock


Other products

Standard

400

400

400

NA

aReferences (28, 185).

 

Working Properties: Balsam fir works easily with both hand tools and machine operations. It finishes well, provided one uses sharp cutting edges. It takes nails, paint, varnish and polish well. It has good splitting resistance.

Durability: It is rated as slightly resistant to nonresistant to heartwood decay (15). It is susceptible to attack by ambrosia beetles (pinhole borers), longhorn beetles, Buprestid beetles and Sirex wood wasps (5).

Preservation: Reported as resistant to preservative treatments (5).

Uses: The tree is a favorite Christmas tree, while the wood is used for pulpwood, lumber, light frame construction, paneling and crates. The oleoresin (balsam) is used in microscopy, medicinal compounds and spirit varnishes.

 

Toxicity: Working with the wood may cause eczema or dermatitis (4,9&16).

Additional Reading and References Cited (in parentheses)

1. Bender, F. Canada Balsam, its preparation and uses. Ottawa, Canada: Canada Department of Forestry and Rural Development, Forestry Branch, Departmental Publication No. 1182; 1967.

2. Boone, R. S.; Kozlik, C. J.; Bois, P. J., and Wengert, E. M. Dry kiln schedules for commercial woods - temperate and tropical. Madison, WI: USDA Forest Service, FPL-GTR-57; 1988.

3. Frank, R. M. Abies balsamea (L.) Mill., Balsam Fir. in: Burns, R. M. and Honkala, B. H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Volume 1, Conifers. Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service; 1990; pp. 26-35.

4. Hausen, B. M. Woods injurious to human health. A manual. New York, NY: Walter de Gruyter; 1981.

5. Henderson, F. Y. A handbook of softwoods. London: HMSO; 1977.

6. Hyam, R. and Pankhurst, R. Plant and their names. A concise dictionary. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 1995.

7. Little, jr. E. L. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Washington, DC: USGPO, USDA Forest Service, Ag. Handbook No. 541; 1979.

8. Marriott, F. G. and Greaves, C. Canada Balsam, its preparation and uses. Ottawa, Canada: Canada Department of Mines and Resources, Lands Parks and Forests Branch, Dominion Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratories, Mimeograph #123.; 1947.

9. Mitchell, J. and Rook, A. Botanical dermatology: plants and plant products injurious to the skin. Vancouver, BC: Greenglass Ltd.; 1979.

10. Record, S. J. and Hess R. W. Timbers of the new world. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 1943.

11. Robinson, A. I. Canada Balsam. The Microscope. 1938; 2(6):141-143.

12. Simpson, W. T. Dry kiln operator's manual. Madison, WI: USDA Forest Service, FPL Ag. Handbook No. 188; 1991.

13. Sonderman, D. L. Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea). Washington, DC, USA: USDA Forest Service, American Woods Series, FS-234; 1970.

14. Summitt, R. and Sliker, A. CRC handbook of materials science. Vol. 4. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Inc.; 1980.

15. USDA. Wood handbook: wood as an engineering material. Madison, WI: USDA Forest Service, FPL Ag. Handbook No. 72; 1974.

16. Woods, B. and Calnan, C. D. Toxic woods. British Journal of Dermatology. 1976; 95(13):1-97.