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Abies fraseri - (Pursh.)Poir.                
Common Name She Balsam, Fraser fir, Southern Balsam Fir
Family Pinaceae
Synonyms Pinus fraseri.
Known Hazards The oleoresin (Canada balsam) can cause dermatitis in some people[222].
Habitats Mountains, often forming forests of considerable extent at elevations of 1200 - 1800 metres[11, 82].
Range South-eastern N. America - Virginia and West Virginia to North Carolina and Tennessee.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun

Form: Pyramidal, Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of cone
Abies fraseri is an evergreen Tree growing to 15 m (49ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.

USDA hardiness zone : 4-7

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.

Abies fraseri She Balsam, Fraser fir, Southern Balsam Fir

Abies fraseri She Balsam, Fraser fir, Southern Balsam Fir
Woodland Garden Canopy;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Inner bark.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Gum;  Tea.

The following uses are for the closely related A. balsamea. Since this species also has blisters of resin in the bark[81], the uses quite probably also apply here. Inner bark - cooked. It is usually dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread[105, 177]. An emergency food, it is only used when all else fails[183]. An aromatic resinous pitch is found in blisters in the bark[64]. When eaten raw it is delicious and chewy[101, 183]. An oleoresin from the pitch is used as a flavouring in sweets, baked goods, ice cream and drinks[183]. Tips of young shoots are used as a tea substitute[177, 183].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Analgesic;  Antiscorbutic;  Antiseptic;  Diuretic;  Poultice;  Stimulant;  Tonic;  VD.

The following uses are for the closely related A. balsamea. Since this species also has blisters of resin in the bark[81], the uses quite probably also apply here. The resin obtained from the balsam fir (see 'Uses notes' below) has been used throughout the world and is a very effective antiseptic and healing agent. It is used as a healing and analgesic protective covering for burns, bruises, wounds and sores[213, 222, 226]. It is also used to treat sore nipples[213] and is said to be one of the best curatives for a sore throat[245]. The buds, resin, and/or sap are used in folk remedies for treating cancers, corns, and warts[269]. The resin is also antiscorbutic, diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant and tonic[4, 171, 222]. It is used internally in propriety mixtures to treat coughs and diarrhoea, though taken in excess it is purgative[238]. A warm liquid of the gummy sap was drunk as a treatment for gonorrhoea[212]. A tea made from the leaves is antiscorbutic[4, 171]. It is used in the treatment of coughs, colds and fevers[222]. The leaves and young shoots are best harvested in the spring and dried for later use[238]. This plant was widely used medicinally by various North American Indian tribes[257]. The resin was used as an antiseptic healing agent applied externally to wounds, sores, bites etc., it was used as an inhalant to treat headaches and was also taken internally to treat colds, sore throats and various other complaints[257].
Other Uses
Adhesive;  Gum;  Microscope;  Repellent;  Resin;  Stuffing;  Wood.

Wood - light, soft, coarse grained, not strong[82]. It is occasionally manufactured into lumber[82]. The following uses are for the closely related A. balsamea. Since this species also has blisters of resin in the bark[81], the uses quite probably also apply here. The balsamic resin 'Balm of Gilead'[11, 46] or 'Canada Balsam' according to other reports[64, 226] is obtained during July and August from blisters in the bark or by cutting pockets in the wood[222].. Another report says that it is a turpentine[171]. It is used medicinally, also in the manufacture of glues, candles and as a cement for microscopes and slides - it has a high refractive index resembling that of glass[11, 46, 64, 82, 222, 226]. The average yield is about 8 - 10 oz per tree[171]. The resin is also a fixative in soaps and perfumery[171]. Leaves are a stuffing material for pillows etc - they impart a pleasant scent[46, 61] and also repel moths[169]
Cultivation details                                         
Landscape Uses:Christmas tree, Screen, Specimen. Prefers a good moist but not water-logged soil[1]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Very shade tolerant, especially when young[81, 126], but growth is slower in dense shade[81]. Intolerant of atmospheric pollution[1]. Prefers slightly acid conditions down to a pH of about5[200]. Prefers growing on a north-facing slope[200]. A shallow-rooted plant, making it vulnerable to high winds[229]. A fast-growing but short-lived species[200]. Trees are very cold hardy but are often excited into premature growth in mild winters and this new growth is susceptible to damage by late frosts[11]. No other member of this genus has proved to be of as little value, or so short-lived as this species; there is scarcely a good tree in the country, though it is attractive when young[11]. Usually short-lived in cultivation, though bearing its interesting cones whilst still young[81]. Young trees can be handsome and vigorous, one grew 120cm in two years, but growth soon slows[185]. Trees are known to have lived more than 60 years[185]. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm in height. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance[200]. Trees have a thin bark and are therefore susceptible to forest fires[229]. This species is closely related to A. balsamea and is seen as no moer than a form of that species by some botanists[11, 229, 270]. There are some named forms selected for their ornamental value[200]. Trees can produce cones when only 2 metres tall[200]. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly[200]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[200]. The cones break up on the tree and if seed is required it should be harvested before the cones break up in early autumn[80]. Special Features: North American native, There are no flowers or blooms.
Seed - sow early February in a greenhouse or outdoors in March[78]. Germination is often poor, usually taking about 6 - 8 weeks[78]. Stratification is said to produce a more even germination so it is probably best to sow the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn[80, 113]. The seed remains viable for up to 5 years if it is well stored[113]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on for at least their first winter in pots. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Alternatively, if you have sufficient seed, it is possible to sow in an outdoor seedbed. One report says that it is best to grow the seedlings on in the shade at a density of about 550 plants per square metre[78] whilst another report says that they are best grown on in a sunny position[80]. Trees often self-layer in the wild[226], so this might be a means of increasing named varieties in cultivation[K].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[64]Howes. F. N. Vegetable Gums and Resins.
A very good book dealing with the subject in a readable way.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[80]McMillan-Browse. P. Hardy Woody Plants from Seed.
Does not deal with many species but it is very comprehensive on those that it does cover. Not for casual reading.
[81]Rushforth. K. Conifers.
Deals with conifers that can be grown outdoors in Britain. Good notes on cultivation and a few bits about plant uses.
[82]Sargent. C. S. Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader.
[101]Turner. N. J. and Szczawinski. A. Edible Wild Fruits and Nuts of Canada.
A very readable guide to some wild foods of Canada.
[105]Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World.
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
[113]Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
[126]? The Plantsman. Vol. 6. 1984 - 1985.
Excerpts from the periodical giving cultivation details and other notes on some of the useful plants including Actinidia and Wisteria species.
[169]Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden.
Covers all aspects of growing your own clothes, from fibre plants to dyes.
[171]Hill. A. F. Economic Botany.
Not very comprehensive, but it is quite readable and goes into some a bit of detail about the plants it does cover.
[177]Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption.
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[185]Mitchell. A. F. Conifers in the British Isles.
A bit out of date (first published in 1972), but an excellent guide to how well the various species of conifers grow in Britain giving locations of trees.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[212]Craighead. J., Craighead. F. and Davis. R. A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers
Excellent little pocket guide to the area, covering 590 species and often giving details of their uses.
[213]Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
[222]Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
[226]Lauriault. J. Identification Guide to the Trees of Canada
Very good on identification for non-experts, the book also has a lot of information on plant uses.
[229]Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[245]Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World.
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.
[257]Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
[269]Duke. J. Handbook of Energy Crops
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of plants.
[270] Flora of N. America
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.

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