Balsam fir

(Abies balsamea)



Abies balsamea or balsam fir is a North American fir, native to most of eastern and central Canada (Newfoundland west to central Alberta) and the northeastern United States (Minnesota east to Maine, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to West Virginia). Balsam fir is a small to medium-size evergreen tree typically 14–20 metres (46–66 ft) tall, occasionally reaching a height of 27 metres (89 ft). The narrow conic crown consists of dense, dark-green leaves. The bark on young trees is smooth, grey, and with resin blisters (which tend to spray when ruptured), becoming rough and fissured or scaly on old trees. The leaves are flat and needle-like, 15 to 30 mm (5⁄8 to 1+1⁄8 in) long, dark green above often with a small patch of stomata near the tip, and two white stomatal bands below, and a slightly notched tip. They are arranged spirally on the shoot, but with the leaf bases twisted so that the leaves appear to be in two more-or-less horizontal rows on either side of the shoot. The needles become shorter and thicker the higher they are on the tree. The seed cones are erect, 40 to 80 mm (1+1⁄2 to 3+1⁄4 in) long, dark purple, ripening brown and disintegrating to release the winged seeds in September. For thousands of years Native Americans used Balsam fir for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. The needles are digested directly off the tree by many animals and humans. Higher content dosage is ingested in tea. Balsam Fir contains vitamin C, which has been studied for its effects on bacterial and viral infections. The male reproductive organs generally develop more rapidly and appear sooner than the female organs. The male organs contain microsporangia which divide to form sporogenous tissue, composed of cells which become archesporial cells. These develop into microspores, or pollen-mother cells, once they are rounded and filled with starch grains. When the microspores undergo meiosis in the spring, four haploid microspores are produced which eventually become pollen grains. Once the male strobilus has matured the microsporangia are exposed at which point the pollen is released. The female megasporangiate is larger than the male. It contains bracts and megasporophylls, each of which contains two ovules, arranged in a spiral. These then develop a nucellus in which a mother cell is formed. Meiosis occurs and a megaspore is produced as the first cell of the megagametophyte.

Taxonomic tree:

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Coniferophyta
Class: Pinopsida
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