Sex. Syst. Monoecia, Monadelphia. (Oleo-resinae.)
Botany. Gen. Char.—Flowers monoecious. Males: catkins solitary, not racemose; the scales staminiferous at the apex. Stamens two; the anthers 1-celled. Females: catkins simple. Ovaries 2. Stigmas glandular. Scales of the cone imbricated; thin at the apex, rounded (neither thickened, angular, nor umbilicated on the back). Cotyledons digitato-partite. Leaves solitary in each sheath (Bot. Gall.).
Species.—1. Abies excelsa, DC.; A. communis, Hort.; Pinus Abies, Linn.; the Norway Spruce Fir.—Leaves tetragonal. Cones cylindrical; the scales rhomboid, flattened, jagged, and bent backwards at the margin (Bot. Gall.)—A native of Germany, Russia, Norway, and other parts of Europe; also of the northern parts of Asia. Commonly cultivated in England. Flowers in May and June. A very lofty tree, growing sometimes to the height of 150 feet. It yields by spontaneous exudation common frankincense (abietis resina; thus, L. D.), from which is prepared Burgundy pitch, D. (pix burgundica, L. E. pix abietina).
The leaf-buds (gemmae seu turiones abietis) of this species of Abies, as well as of the Silver Fir (Abies Picea), are used on the continent, in the form of decoction or beer; or, with the woods of guaiacum and sassafras, and juniper berries, in the form of tincture (tinctura pini composita, Ph. Bor.). They are employed in scorbutic, rheumatic, and gouty complaints.
2. Abies Balsamea, Lindley; Pinus balsamea, Linn., Lambert; the Canadian balsam Fir; Balm of Gilead Fir.—Leaves solitary, flat, emarginate, subpectinate, suberect above. Scales of the flowering cone acuminate, reflexed.—An elegant tree, seldom rising more than 40 feet. Inhabits Canada, Nova Scotia, Maine, Virginia, and Carolina. Yields Canadian balsam (Terebinthina canadensis, L.; Balsamum canadense, E. D.).
3. Abies canadensis, Lindley; [Loudon's Encyclopaedia of Plants.] Pinus canadensis, Linn., Lambert; (the Hemlock Spruce Fir.—Said to yield an oleo-resin analogous to Canada balsam.
4. Abies Picea, Lindley; Abies pectinata, DC; Pinus Picea, Linnaeus; (the Silver Fir.—Mountains of Siberia, Germany, and Switzerland. Yields Strasburgh turpentine.
5. Abies nigra, Michaux; Pinus nigra, Lambert; the Black Spruce Fir.—The concentrated aqueous decoction of the young branches is essence of spruce, used in the preparation of spruce beer. [United States Dispensatory.]
Essence of spruce (essentia abietis) is prepared by boiling the young tops of some coniferous plant (in America, those of Abies nigra, or black spruce, are used) in water, and concentrating the decoction by evaporation. "It is a thick liquid, having the colour and consistence of molasses, with a bitterish, acidulous, astringent taste." [Ibid.] It is used in the preparation of spruce beer.
Spruce beer (cerevisia abietis) is thus prepared: "Take of Essence of Spruce half a pint; Pimento (bruised), Ginger (bruised), Hops, of each four ounces; Water three gallons. Boil for five or ten minutes; then strain, and add, of Warm Water eleven gallons; Yeast a pint; Molasses six pints. Mix, and allow the mixture to ferment for twenty hours." [Ibid.] It is sometimes taken as an agreeable and wholesome drink in summer. It is diuretic and anti scorbutic, and is, in consequence, employed in long sea-voyages as a preventive of scurvy.