The most widespread of the North American firs, balsam fir grows on mires and at the edges of drier land, often forming mixed forests with broadleaf trees, black and white spruce (Picea mariana and P. glauca), and tamarack (aka American larch, Larix laricina). The crushed needles give off a typical balsam fragrance. This aromatic fragrance and the regular conical shape contribute to the popularity of this species as a Christmas tree in its native Canada, in addition to which the dark green needles also remain long on the tree indoors.
In Finland, balsam fir is the second most common of the firs, used mainly in parks. It hybridises easily with Siberian fir and very often park plantings include hybrids. Balsam fir also regenerates spontaneously and young growth forms close-growing mats in fir plantations.
Balsam fir is undemanding. At Mustila it grows quite happily on drier ground, though is of somewhat stunted growth on very poor soil. It is usually found here in plantations dating back to the Arboretum’s early days, grown from seeds received from the Dane, Johannes Rafn. Exactly where this seed was collected is not known.