A guide for Christmas tree varieties

Published 6:15 am Tuesday, November 27, 2018

I grew up using local cedar trees for Christmas trees from farm fence rows, mostly because that’s all there was. But modern commerce has allowed a greater variety of evergreen species available. So that you may be an informed consumer, here is a listing of Christmas tree species and their attributes.

Virginia pine: A popular one for growers due to its rapid growth and ability to take heavy shearing. The foliage is dense with light green needles around 3 inches long; Needle retention is good if obtained reasonably fresh; Fragrance is fair; Cost is usually lower than most.

Scotch pine: Very stiff dark green needles that are 2-2 ½ inches in length; Needle retention is okay but not great; Good fragrance; Cost is usually on the low end.

White pine: Very soft blue green needles around 4 inches long; Branches are flexible and do not handle heavy ornaments well; Needle retention is good to excellent, with good fragrance; Cost is mid-range.

Fraser fir: Shiny bright to dark green needles with silver undersides; Needles are ½-1inch in length; excellent needle retention; a very fragrant tree and very popular here in the east; Cost is on the high end;

Douglas fir: A western native with soft green to blue-green needles 1 inch in length; Good to excellent needle retention, very fragrant; Cost is high.

Concolor fir: A handsome tree with soft, silvery blue to silvery green needles 1½-2 inches long; Fair needle retention; Fragrance is excellent, giving a citrus aroma; Cost is high;

Canaan Fir: This is a relative newcomer discovered in the mountains of West Virginia; it’s a variety of Balsam fir that has a nice green color with soft needles; needle retention is very good, as is the fragrance. Cost is medium to high

Eastern Red Cedar: This native is what a lot of us older folk grew up with as I said. It has scales rather than needles that are prickly to the touch and very fragrant; Not as long lasting as the pines, so the recommendation is no more than 2-3 weeks indoors; cost is low.

Leyland Cypress: This one is starting to catch on and reminds you of a well-formed cedar; it has scales rather than needles, but they don’t prick you like a red-cedar; They have very full foliage with good needle retention; little to no fragrance, and cost is midrange.

Steve Roark is a retired area forester from Tazewell, Tennessee.