Abies fraseri

Common Names:
Southern balsam fir
(Pursh) Poir.
Growth Habit:
CPC Number:
Profile Contributors:
Irina Kadis
Fully Sponsored

Reference Links

ITIS - Tropicos - USDA Plants - Fish & WildLife

Participating Institutions

The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
The Morton Arboretum
San Diego Zoo Global

The conservation of Abies fraseri is fully sponsored.
Irina Kadis contributed to this Plant Profile.


The Fraser fir is endemic to high elevations in the southern Appalachian Mountains. It is named after John Fraser, the Scottish botanist/explorer who discovered it in the late 18th century. This coniferous evergreen tree grows from 30-80 ft. tall, around 12 inches in diameter, and has a narrow crown and shallow root system.

As one of the few trees to grow at high elevations, this species appears to play an important role in controlling erosion in southern watersheds by holding shallow soil to the steep wet slopes that it grows on. Unfortunately, in the past fifty years the number of mature, reproductive Fraser fir trees has declined by as much as 91% in areas where it naturally occurs. This decline is primarily attributed to the presence of an introduced insect, the balsam wooly adelgid (Dull et al. 1988), but other environmental factors, including acid rain, may also be a contributing problem.

Although the survival of this species in the wild is threatened, it is thriving in cultivation, where regular application of insecticides can control the balsam wooly adelgid. In fact, it has recently become a favorite in the Christmas tree world. The Fraser fir's natural shape, combined with its fragrant dark green foliage and long needle retention time have made it one of the most popular Christmas tree species nationwide. A 1993 report noted 2,500 North Carolina growers who planted 30,000 acres of Fraser fir, about 2,700 trees per acre. It has been recently designated 'The Cadillac of Christmas Trees' (Dirr 1998).

Distribution & Occurrence


Conservation, Ecology & Research