This section is from the book "An Illustrated Flora Of The Northern United States, Canada And The British Possessions Vol1", by Nathaniel Lord Britton, Addison Brown. Also available from Amazon: An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 Volume Set..
Evergreen trees with linear flat scattered sessile leaves, spreading so as to appear 2-ranked, but in reality spirally arranged, not jointed to sterigmata, and commonly quite persistent in drying, the naked twigs marked by the flat scars of their bases. Staminate aments axillary; anthers 2-celled, the sacs transversely dehiscent, the connective prolonged into a short knob or point; pollen-grains compound. Ovule-bearing aments lateral, erect; ovules 2 on the base of each scale, reflexed, the scale shorter than or exceeding the thin or papery, mucronate or aristate bract. Cones erect, subcylindric or ovoid, their scales deciduous from the persistent axis, orbicular or broader, obtuse. [Ancient name of the firs.]
About 25 species, natives of the north temperate zone, chiefly in boreal and mountainous regions. Besides the following, 8 others occur in the western parts of North America and 1 in Mexico. Type species: Pinus Picca L., Abies Picca (L.) Lindley, of Europe.
Bracts surrulate, mucronate, shorter than the scales or but little longer.
Bracts aristate, reflexed, much longer than the scales.
A slender forest tree attaining a maximum height of about 90º and a trunk diameter of 3°, usually much smaller and on mountain tops and in high arctic regions reduced to a low shrub. Bark smooth, warty with resin "blisters." Leaves fragrant in drying, less than 1" wide, 6"-10" long, obtuse, dark green above, paler beneath or the youngest conspicuously whitened on the lower surface; cones cylindric, 2'-4' long, 9" - 15" thick, upright, arranged in rows on the upper side of the branches, violet or purplish when young; bracts obovate, serrulate, mucronate, shorter than the broad rounded scales.
Newfoundland and Labrador to Hudson Bay and Alberta, south to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, along the Alleghanies to Virginia and to Iowa and Minnesota. Ascends to 5000 ft. in the Adirondacks. Wood soft and weak, light brown; weight per cubic foot 24 lbs. Canada balsam is derived from the resinous exudations of the trunk. Called also Fir-tree. Fir or Blister-pine, American Silver Fir, Single Spruce, Balm of Gilead. May-June.
A forest tree, reaching a maximum size rather less than that of the preceding species, the smooth bark bearing similar resin "blisters." Leaves, especially the younger, conspicuously whitened beneath, 5"-10" long, nearly 1" wide, emarginate or some of them obtuse at the apex; cones oblong-cylindric or ovoid-cylindric, 2'-3' high, about 1' thick, their scales rhomboid, much broader than high, rounded at the apex, much shorter than the papery bracts, which are reflexed, their summits emarginate, serrulate and aristate.
On the high Alleghanies of southwestern Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. Wood similar to that of the northern species, but slightly lighter in weight. Called also Double Spruce, She or Mountain Balsam. May.