Balsam Plant Information: Tips For Growing Balsam Plants
The balsam tree (Lindera benzoin) is a tropical evergreen shrub or small tree native to South America. It grows up to 10 feet tall and wide with dark green leaves which are opposite each other.
The bark is smooth and light brown, but it may have white spots. The fruit is a yellowish seed pod with two long slender stalks.
The balsam tree is native to the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. It was introduced into Florida in 1885 from Argentina where it had been grown since at least 1673.
It was first cultivated commercially in the United States in 1892 by John D. Rockefeller Jr., who obtained permission from the U.S Department of Agriculture to grow it for commercial purposes under USDA regulations and restrictions.
It was not until the early 1900’s that it became popular among gardeners. By then, however, its popularity had waned somewhat due to its tendency to produce large quantities of resin that must be disposed of after use.
Today, it is still commonly used as a decorative plant in gardens and landscaping areas because of its attractive foliage color and fragrant flowers. However, there are many varieties available today with different growth habits and even some that flower year round!
Balsam Tree Information: Characteristics
The balsam tree is an evergreen, but its needle-like leaves resemble those of deciduous trees. Its small leaves are dark green in color and smooth in texture.
They grow oppositely and are arranged in a spiral pattern along the length of the branches. When they reach their mature size, they range from 1 to 2 inches long and 0.2 inches wide.
The balsam tree has small, inconspicuous flowers which are followed by fruits known as legumes. The legumes are green pods that grow in spirals around the length of the branches.
Each pod is 2 to 4 inches long and less than 1/2 inch wide. Each pod has within it from one to three seeds shaped like an oval with one pointed end. These seeds may be brown, tan or black in color.
The balsam tree is easy to grow and is adaptable to various types of soil, but it prefers a well-drained, sandy loam soil. It requires full sun and cannot tolerate poor drainage.
It is hardy in zones 8b through 11.
The balsam tree does not normally produce flowers and legumes until it is at least four or five years old. It grows best when planted 2 to 3 feet apart in the landscape.
Height: 6 -10 Feet (1.8 – 3 Meters)
Climate: zones 5 – 11
Spread: 6 – 10 Feet (1.8 – 3 Meters)
Light: Full Sun.
Soil Type: Sandy Loam.
Colors: Green, Yellow.
Pruning Information: Notable.
Seed Type: Small.
Learn how to Grow Balsam Trees From Seed.
Bonsai Information: SUITABLE
Learn how to Train a Balsam Tree Bonsai.
The balsam tree (Lindera benzoin) is poisonous and should be planted far from paths or sitting areas. All parts of the plant are considered toxic and can cause contact dermatitis in some individuals.
Balsam wood, also known as Ben tree, Benjamin tree, stinking Benjamin or stinking balm is the wood of any of various types of trees in the genus Styrax. The wood is heavy and hard and has a distinct odor which makes it unsuitable for most applications.
It was once used in making of bows. In its green state it was carved into idols by the Native Americans.
Origin: North America
Light: Full Sun
Height: 20 to 40 feet (6.1 – 12.2 meters)
Spread: 20 to 40 feet (6.1 – 12.2 meters)
Special Treatments: Not Required.
Description: The balsam poplar is a fast growing tree that can reach an impressive height of up to 40 feet in the wild, or even more in optimal conditions. In fact, it is among the top ten tallest trees in the eastern half of North America.
Sources & references used in this article:
Multielement distribution in different plant organs by SB Aidid – Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry, 1988 – Taylor & Francis
A Comparative Study of the Anchorage Systems of Himalayan Balsam Impatiens glandulifera and Mature Sunflower Helianthus annuus by AR Ennos, MJ Crook, C Grimshaw – Journal of Experimental …, 1993 – academic.oup.com
Effect of oil palm empty fruit bunch-grafted-poly (acrylic acid-co-acrylamide) hydrogel preparations on plant growth performance by NE Rabat, S Hashim, RA Majid – 2014 – Trans Tech Publ
Studies on the balsam woolly aphid (Adelges piceae Ratz.) and its effects on balsam fir, Abies balsamea (L.) Mill. by RE Balch – Studies on the balsam woolly aphid (Adelges piceae …, 1952 – cabdirect.org
Characterization of old” wet boreal” forests, with an example from balsam fir forests of western Newfoundland by EV Bakuzis – 1965 – U of Minnesota Press
Ecology, management, and use of aspen and balsam poplar in the prairie provinces by ID Thompson, DJ Larson… – Environmental …, 2003 – NRC Research Press
Pollen distribution in the northeast Pacific Ocean by EB Peterson, NM Peterson – 1992 – Citeseer
Root hydraulic properties and growth of balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) mycorrhizal with Hebeloma crustuliniforme and Wilcoxina mikolae var. mikolae by L Heusser, WL Balsam – Quaternary Research, 1977 – Elsevier