Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis (West Virginia Canaan Fir) - Qt Super Plugs

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Canaan Fir is a relative newcomer in the landscape.  Once thought to be a hybrid between Balsam and Fraser firs, there seems to be characteristics of both trees in Canaan Fir.  Most authorities now regard Canaan Fir as simply a variety of Balsam Fir. (Actually, "Bracted Balsam Fir", Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis ranges from Nova Scotia, Canada, to West Virginia.  "Canaan Fir" is simply an ecotype of this fir named after the Canaan Valley in West Virginia).  Used for years by Christmas Tree Growers, this tree deserves far more use than it gets.  Found at high elevations in the Central Appalachians of West Virginia; this strain, Canaan (kuh-NAIN) Fir, comes from seed sources in the Canaan Valley.  Canaan fir is known for its adaptability; there seems to be more heat resistance and vigor than in either Balsam or Fraser fir.  It is also found on much more boggy soils, and will grow on heavier soils than Fraser Fir.  As usual, though, growth is best on moist, well-drained soils.


Canaan fir is a useful tree; It is used heavily in the Christmas Tree Industry, and can be used much in the same way as Balsam fir for stuffing pillows, extracting resin, etc.  This tree has also become popular as a windbreak and landscape tree here in the Midwest, tolerating the more clay-based soils and the summer warmth.  As it comes from a climate that is cool and wet, it is not prone to the needle-cast diseases that make Concolor fir (Abies concolor) unsuited for mass plantings around here.

Growing Information

As mentioned previously, Canaan Fir is a relatively easy-to-grow tree.  We have successfully established gallon-size Rootmaker liners here at the nursery, and they grow extremely well.  They have been unfazed by heat, drought, and cold!  Canaan fir looks great when planted in clumps or groves, as close spacing keeps the plants straight and narrow.  Space about 8 to 10 feet apart for mass plantings.  

Canaan Fir also is a great specimen tree - the steely, dark-green needles keep their color all winter, and tend to stay on the tree for years, creating a dense screen.  The balsam smell is great when the sun evaporates the dew off of them - Canaan fir is worth planting for the aroma alone!  Plant these trees in moist, well-drained soil (Try to avoid heavy, sticky clay), and water once a week the first year.  Canaan fir is fairly drought tolerant once established, but grows best with good moisture.  In severe droughts, even larger trees may need water; we lost a few saplings during a drought, but these were planted on a hot, dry hilltop.


Our Canaan Firs are in Quart SuperPlug containers, and are 18-24" tall.  Because of the air-root pruned system, these trees will establish and grow quickly after planting.

Common Name: Canaan Fir
Botanical Name: Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis
Availability: Available April 2020