The Forestry Forum

General Forestry => Tree, Plant and Wood I.D. => Topic started by: sprucebunny on November 12, 2005, 06:26:02 AM

Title: balsam ?
Post by: sprucebunny on November 12, 2005, 06:26:02 AM
All the balsam tops that broke off recently are nice and fluffy with needles almost all the way around the stem. They also have areas with tiny bumps between the needles. What are the little bumps and why do parts of balsam trees have needles all the way around the stem while some branches have only 2 rows of horizontal needles ?

(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/11412/jmbalsamcloseOP.jpg)
Title: Re: balsam ?
Post by: SwampDonkey on November 12, 2005, 07:47:51 AM
All the balsam tops that broke off recently are nice and fluffy with needles almost all the way around the stem. They also have areas with tiny bumps between the needles. What are the little bumps and why do parts of balsam trees have needles all the way around the stem while some branches have only 2 rows of horizontal needles ?

On the fir the condition your describing is caused by light conditions. The needles spiral in full sunlight and lay flat in low light. If the little bumps are brown and shiny, they are lateral buds or could be male pollen flower buds.
Title: Re: balsam ?
Post by: Kevin on November 12, 2005, 04:20:52 PM
Joan are you looking at the same tree or different trees?
Balsm have needles that lay flat on each side of the stem and spruce have needles that grow all around the entire stem.
Spruce branches usually curve upwards and reach for the sky and balsm branches droop.
Title: Re: balsam ?
Post by: sprucebunny on November 12, 2005, 05:21:45 PM
That branch in the picture is a balsam top ! The undersides of the needles is white and the lower branches have flatter arrangements of needles on the same tree. I guess, like SwampDonkey says, the branches that have light available take advantage of it ;D

Does balsam have both sexes on the same tree? The lumps must be the "male pollen flower buds" cause the cones are supposed to grow upwards according to the book I looked in ???
Title: Re: balsam ?
Post by: SwampDonkey on November 12, 2005, 06:21:29 PM
Joan are you looking at the same tree or different trees?
Balsm have needles that lay flat on each side of the stem and spruce have needles that grow all around the entire stem.
Spruce branches usually curve upwards and reach for the sky and balsm branches droop.

Maybe Joan can clarify, but the balsam fir behave as she describes. If you've ever tipped for wreaths you notice this and the buyers only want the tips that lay flat in double rows along the stem. The branch she has in the photo is one that grew in full light and has loads of male pollen buds ready to flush next spring. My father used to get tricked by those balsam trees with needles that whorl around the stem and think they were spruce. I rib him every time he mentions it. ;D Look in the knowledge base, and you'll see under wreath making, the differences in the needle orientation. Also spruce have 'pulvinus' or also known as 'sterigmata' at the base of the needles and fir don't. It looks like a tiny-itty-bitty short shoot to which the needle is attached to the stem. Once the needle dies and falls off, this structure remains on the stem. The twig surfaces of spruce are made up of longitudinally arranged, small, round-topped ridges, each of which supports near its outer end a pulvinus with its leaf.

(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/11009/SD_balsam1.jpg)
Balsam needles and twig

(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/11009/SD_balsam_2.jpg)
Balsam pollen cone buds

(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/11009/SD_balsam_4.jpg)
Balsam pollen cone revealed by removing the dormant bud scales. Be careful you don't go cross eyed and use a 10 x hand lens ;D

(https://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/11009/SD_spruce_1.jpg)
The definitive evidence for spruce. ;D This is a white spruce example. If you want to differentiate between this and red or black spruce, we will have to explore the needles and shoots for hairs. No hairs on white spruce twigs at all. On red spruce there are hairs between the round-topped ridges (in the areas that look like slits) and in the case for black spruce they have hairs on top and in between the round-topped ridges. If you look for hairs, take branch tips, as the older parts of the branch will loose the hairs. ;D

The pretty pictures in audubon aren't much help now. ;)
Title: Re: balsam ?
Post by: SwampDonkey on November 12, 2005, 06:25:51 PM
Does balsam have both sexes on the same tree? The lumps must be the "male pollen flower buds" cause the cones are supposed to grow upwards according to the book I looked in ???

Yup both sexes on one tree and the female cones are erect on balsam. When the seed cones on balsam are ripe the cone scales fall away from the cone axis.
Title: Re: balsam ?
Post by: Tom on November 12, 2005, 06:57:11 PM
Good lesson.  Thanks.  :P :)
Title: Re: balsam ?
Post by: Kevin on November 12, 2005, 08:21:44 PM
That's some good info Donk, thanks for bringing up the topic Joan.
Title: Re: balsam ?
Post by: SwampDonkey on November 12, 2005, 08:27:08 PM
No problem guys. Pictures are worth more than (or enhance) words sometimes, when your describing tiny itty bitty things. ;D
Title: Re: balsam ?
Post by: sprucebunny on November 12, 2005, 08:59:25 PM
Thanks, SwampDonkey . Those are great close-ups. ;D

I was a little disappointed in the 3 books I looked in for not mentioning the male pollen buds.