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Types and Varieties of Christmas Trees

About Christmas Trees

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What you consider to be a Christmas tree, can vary significantly. A person's vision what is the perfect Christmas tree, varies by region of the country, as well as your family traditions. For example, if Blue Spruce trees are popular in your area, and your family always used a Blue Spruce as a Christmas tree during your childhood, chances are a Blue Spruce is your idea of the perfect Christmas tree. But, suppose you move to an area of the country where Scotch Pines are prevalent, you just might discover Blue Spruce trees are hard to find, or not even available. As a result, you may find scotch pines or another variety, becomes the traditional tree in your new home.

There are virtually dozens of varieties of trees, that are used as Christmas trees. Each one is a favorite to someone. The vast majority of Christmas trees are categorized into three groups: Fir, Pine, and Spruce trees. Occasionally, even cypress and some cedars have been used as a Christmas tree.

Fir Trees:

Balsam Fir

Balsam Fir is perhaps the least expensive of Christmas trees. Early American settlers first identified these trees around 1768.

It is a more slender tree, with dense, dark green needles. People love the very strong fragrance. The needles are long lasting. The tree bark is smooth, and ash gray.

Balsam Fir is very popular as a Christmas tree, reaching a height of 6-7 feet in about 9-10 years. Left alone, Balsam Fir trees grows to 40' - 60'.

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir trees are one of the most popular, and most expensive Christmas trees on the market. The tree is wider than most Christmas trees. The branches are less sturdy than most other varieties. Douglas-fir is not related to true firs.

The tree has 1" - 1 ½" needles. The needles are soft, dark green to blue green in color, with a sweet scent when crushed. The attractive needles are stay on the tree longer than most other trees.

These trees reach Christmas tree size in 7-10 years. Aside from use as Christmas trees, Douglas Firs have a variety of wood and lumber uses. Left uncut, it can grow up to 250 feet tall, and can live up to 1,000 years. It can even survive some wildfires.

Fraser Fir

Fraser Fir trees have attractive ½" - 1" long, blue-green needles, with bluish silver undersides, on up-turning branches. The tree has good needle retention and have a sweet fragrance. Trees have a uniform, compact, and pyramid shape. They grow up to 80 feet. Fraser firs are similar to Balsam Firs.

In the 18th century, botanist John Fraser, a Scottish botanist and explorer, explored the southern Appalachian Mountains and discovered these trees which now bear his name

Fraser Fir is a uniformly pyramid-shaped tree, which reaches a maximum height of about 80 feet and a diameter of 1 to 1 1/2 feet. Strong branches are turn slightly upward,giving the tree a compact appearance.

These trees grow to 6-7 feet Christmas tree size in 7-10 years.

Grand Fir

Grand Firs are one of the tallest of fir trees, growing up to 300 feet tall. It is native of Northwestern U.S., northward into British Columbia, Canada.

Needles of the Grand Fir are 1 to 1 1/2 inches long. They are glossy, dark green with white lines on the underside.

Grand Firs are not overly popular as Christmas trees, except in their native range.

Noble Fir

The attractive Noble Fir is native to the Pacific Northwest, where they are very popular as Christmas trees. The tree has upward turning needles, exposing sturdy branches that can easily hold your heavier ornaments. The needles are one inch long and blue-green in color, with white lines on the underside.

In the forest, these pyramid shaped trees can grow 12" to 24" a year, reaching a height of up to 100 feet. It produces large, heavy cones. The trees can be found from northern California to Oregon and Washington state.

Concolor Fir

Also called "White Fir", the beauty of the Concolor Fir and good needle retention, makes it an excellent Christmas tree. It is  native to the western United States. Mature tress are normally 30'-50', but can reach up to 150' tall.

Concolor Firs have small, narrow needles, 1 - 1 ½ in. in length and occur in rows. The needles are bluish green to silvery green, and extend upward from the branches. The tree has a pleasant scent.

Pines:

White Pine

Also called Eastern Pine, the White Pine is the largest of the pines in the U.S. It has soft, pliable bluish-green needles. The long,soft needles are 2 ½ to 5 inches long, with good needle retention. Branches are not good for heavy ornaments.

The tree reaches up to 80 feet tall at maturity, and can grow up to 24 inches a year.

White Pines reach Christmas tree size in 6-8 years. Trimming made be needed to help produce a bushier shape.

Scotch Pine

Scotch Pine trees are one of the most popular Christmas trees in America. It is also called "Scots Pine".

Scotch Pines are native to Eurasia. They are hardy, fast growing and easy to grow. Mature trees can grow up to 150 feet tall. The branches grow wide. Yearly pruning helps to create the perfect, dense or bushy, Christmas tree shape.

Dark green needles are approximately 1 inch long. Needle retention is excellent, even as the tree dries out.

About the only knock to Scotch pines, is their trunks tend to grow crooked. Prior to purchase, examine the trunk carefully, to be sure it is straight.

Scotch Pine trees reach Christmas tree size in 6 to 8 years.

Virginia Pine

Virginia Pine trees are prolific in the southeastern area of the country. With a strong, classic scent, they are the Christmas tree of choice for the vast majority of people in this region.

The straight trunk has lots of sap. Strong sturdy branches are perfect for your heavy ornaments. This dense tree has twisted, 1 1/2 to 3 inch needles, growing in pairs from the branches. Dark green needles turn yellowish during the winter.

Trimming the tree yearly, helps to produce a dense, shapely tree. This fast growing tree, can reach Christmas tree size in just 3-6 years. In the forest, Virginia pine trees grow to a little over 100 feet tall.

Their trunks tend to grow crooked. Prior to purchase, examine the trunk carefully, to be sure it is straight.



Spruce Trees:

Colorado Blue Spruce

The Colorado Blue Spruce is a popular Christmas tree choice in the western areas of the country. It has a full, attractive, slightly pyramid shape, with good needle retention. It is a good choice, especially in limited horizontal spaces or small rooms.

Sharp, fragrant needles grow 1 to 1 ½ inches long. The needles are bluish or silver in color.

The Colorado Blue Spruce is a slow growing tree. Mature trees reach up to 75 feet tall, and can live 600-800 years.

Norway Spruce

Attractive Norway Spruce trees are native to Europe, where they are extremely popular. Their beauty caused people to bring them to the New World, where they are primarily found from Northeastern U.S. to Southeastern Canada.

Norway Spruce trees have dark green needles on drooping branches. The needles are ½ to 1 inch long, and are sharp pointed. Needle retention is fair to poor.

Norway Spruce trees reach Christmas tree size in 8 to 11 years. Mature trees can reach over 200 feet tall.

White Spruce

The White Spruce is a beautiful, shapely tree. It has a wide native range, from Alaska in the Northwest, all the way into the Great Lakes region. These trees grow up to 140 feet tall, and have long lives, up to 300 years.

Did You Know? White Spruce is the state tree of South Dakota.

White Spruce are popular as Christmas trees. The sturdy branches and short needles, make them an excellent tree for hanging ornaments. The needles are short and stiff with a blunt tip, just ½ to ¾ inches long. Needle retention is better than other spruce varieties. The bluish-green needles have an unpleasant aroma, if crushed. As a result, it's nickname is the "Skunk Spruce".

Also see:

Finding the Perfect Christmas Tree




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