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University of Illinois Extension

Tree Types

The following Christmas Tree species or types are sold and grown in the United States.

Deodar CedarCedrus deodara – short, bluish-green needles; branches become pendulous at the tips; native to Himalayas; Deodara wood in Asia was used to build temples. In ancient Egypt Dedodara wood was used to make coffins for mummies.

Eastern Red CedarJunirperus viginiana – leaves are a dark, shiny, green color; sticky to the touch; good scent; can dry out quickly; may last just 2-3 weeks; the berries of Juniperus species are used to provide gin with its characteristic flavor. Cedar chests and lined closets prevent moth damage to wool clothing because the volatile cedar oil is a natural insecticide.

Leyland CypressCupress ocyparis leylandii – foliage is dark green to gray color; has upright branches with a feathery appearance; has a light scent; good for people with allergies to other Christmas tree types. One of the most sought after Christmas trees in the Southeastern United States.

Balsam FirAbies balsamea – ¾" to 1 ½" short, flat, long lasting needles that are rounded at the tip; nice, dark green color with silvery cast and fragrant. Named for the balsam or resin found in blisters on bark. Resin is used to make microscope slides and was sold like chewing gum; used to treat wounds in Civil War. Abies ancient name - rising or tall tree, name for the European fir. balsamea balsam-producing.
Close-up photo of tree: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/abba2.htm

Douglas-FirPseudotsuga menziesii – good fragrance; holds blue to dark green; 1" to 1 ½" needles; needles have one of the best aromas among Christmas trees when crushed. Named after David Douglas who studied the tree in the 1800's; good conical shape; can live for a thousand years. Douglas-fir is considered the second tallest tree in North America, after redwood and can grow over 300 ft. tall.

Fraser FirAbies fraseri – dark green, flattened needles; ½ to 1 inch long; good needle retention; nice scent; pyramid-shaped strong branches which turn upward. Named for a botanist, John Fraser, who explored the southern Appalachians in the late 1700's. Growing Fraser fir for Christmas trees and wreaths is a multi-million dollar business in the southern Appalachians.

Grand FirAdies grandis – shiny, dark green needles about 1" – 1 1/2 " long; the needles when crushed, give off a citrusy smell. On Mt. Hood, Oregon, early settlers tied ropes around grand firs to slow down and control their descent. Rope burned trees from this era are still standing. Grand fir's sweet pitch was once chewed by Native Americans.

Noble FirAbies procera – one inch long, bluish-green needles with a silvery appearance; has short, stiff branches; great for heavier ornaments; keeps well; is used to make wreaths, door swags and garland.

Nordmann Fir - Abies nordmannia – dark green, flattened needles, shiny, silvery-blue below, ¾ to 11/2 inches long. Popular in the United Kingdom. Close-up photo of tree: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/abno2.htm

White Fir or Concolor FirAbies concolor – blue-green needles are ½ to ½ inches long; nice shape and good aroma, a citrus scent; good needle retention. In nature can live to 350 years. Some taxonomists separate white fir into two distinct species; A. lowiana of California and A. concolor of Oregon and the Rocky Mountains.

Afghan PinePinus eldarica – soft, short needles with sturdy branches; open appearance; mild fragrance; keeps well; grown in Texas; native to Afghanistan, Russia & Paskistan

Austrian PinePinus nigra – dark green needles, 4 to 6 inches long; retains needles well; moderate fragrance.
Close-up photo of tree: http://www.fairplains.com/pages/Austrian-Pine.htm

Red PinePinus resinosa – dark green needles 4"-6" long; big and bushy.

Ponderosa PinePinus ponderosa – needles lighter colored than Austrian Pine; good needle retention; needles 5" – 10" long. Ponderosa pine is an extremely important timber species in western North America (second only to Douglas-fir) and an icon in western coniferous forests.
Close-up photo of tree: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/pipo7.htm

Scots or Scotch PinePinus sylvestris – most common Christmas tree; stiff branches; stiff, dark green needles one inch long; holds needles for four weeks; needles will stay on even when dry; has open appearance and more room for ornaments; keeps aroma throughout the season; introduced into United States by European settlers.
Close-up photo of tree: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/pisy4.htm

Virginia PinePinus virginiana – dark green needles are 1 ½" – 3" long in twisted pairs; strong branches enabling it to hold heavy ornaments; strong aromatic pine scent; a popular southern Christmas tree. Virginia pine is an aggressive pioneer that produces pulpwood more rapidly than most pines on poor sites. It is also useful for mine land reclamation.

White PinePinus strobus – soft, blue-green needles, 2 to 5 inches long in bundles of five; retains needles throughout the holiday season; very full appearance; little or no fragrance; less allergic reactions as compared to more fragrant trees. Largest pine in United States; state tree of Michigan & Maine; slender branches will support fewer and smaller decorations as compared to Scotch pine. Its wood is used in cabinets, interior finish and carving. Native Americans used the inner bark as food. Early colonists used the inner bark to make cough medicine. White pine (also called ship-mast pine) had a pivotal role in the American Revolution, and provided lumber for colonial expansion westward.
Close-up photo of tree: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/pist4.htm

Black Hills Spruce - Pinus glauca var.densata – green to blue-green needles; 1/3" to ¼" long; stiff needles may be difficult to handle for small children.
Close-up photo of tree: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/piglden2.htm

Blue SprucePicea pungens – dark green to powdery blue; very stiff needles, ¾" to 1 ½" long; good form; will drop needles in a warm room; symmetrical; but is best among species for needle retention; branches are stiff and will support many heavy decorations. State tree of Utah & Colorado. Can live in nature 600-800 years.

Norway SprucePicea abies – needles ½" – 1" long and shiny, dark green. Needle retention is poor without proper care; strong fragrance; nice conical shape. Very popular in Europe.
Close-up photo of tree: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/piab7.htm

White Spruce – Picea glauca – needles ½ to ¾ inch long; green to bluish-green, short, stiff needles; crushed needles have an unpleasant odor; good needle retention. State tree of South Dakota. White spruce is a conifer of northern forests, adapted to a wide range of environments from Alaska to Newfoundland.

Sources

Virginia Tech: Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
Oregon State University: Department of Horticulture
National Christmas Tree Association
North Dakota State University