Balsam fir is primarily used as a Christmas tree and for pulpwood. Needles are ¾-1” long and are flat with circular bases. Twigs with needles have a generally flat appearance. Both male and female cones are purple when young and are 2-4” long. As with all trees in Abies, the cones stand upright on the branches. Bark is smooth gray-brown and scaly. Small blisters on the bark contain a clear, aromatic resin.
Some lumber is produced from balsam fir, but its biggest use is a Christmas tree; it is among the most popular Christmas tree species because of its color and fragrance. The resin of balsam fir, known as Canada balsam, has various medicinal and industrial properties. The resin can be used as a cold remedy, or as a colorless industrial glue for glasses, microscope slides, or prisms. Balsam fir boughs, according to Henry Thoreau, also make excellent mattress substitutes.
In 2015, faculty and students from the Department of Forest Resources published an article considering the impact of warming on the geographic ranges of various arboreal forest species, including balsam fir.
Balsam woolly adelgids can be problematic, and various fungal diseases such as heart rot and needle rust can damage the tree. However, there are no major pests in North America.