10 Best Real Christmas Tree Types to Consider
A real Christmas tree can fill your home with fragrance and provide an awesome centerpiece for your decorations. Here's a look at some of the most popular kinds of tree species and their pros and cons.
Why Choose a Real Christmas Tree?
There’s nothing like a beautiful real Christmas tree to grace your home during the holiday season. And Doug Hundley of the National Christmas Tree Association explained why he believes a real tree is a better choice than an artificial one. “Real trees are beneficial for the environment,” he said. “For every tree that’s harvested, they plant at least one (and often two) back. And this stabilizes the top soil and fields, and it creates wildlife habitat.
“Real trees can be reused and recycled,” he added. “They can be used as mulch, as fish habitat, and utilized for stream bank stabilization. And they decompose in just a matter of a few years. An artificial tree will lay in a landfill virtually forever.”
The cost of a real Christmas tree is higher compared to an artificial one that can be reused year after year. However, if you enjoy the look and feel, not to mention the smell, of a real tree, it can be worth it. Although, there are ways to make an artificial tree look fuller and more like a real Christmas tree. As for which kind of tree to get, these are the most popular options.
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Noble fir (Abies procera Rehd)
Grown mainly in Oregon, the Noble fir is one of the most popular live Christmas trees for sale on the west coast, accounting for 25 to 30 percent of sales (around 7 million trees). And this species is known for its beautiful symmetry and tall upright nature. The Noble fir has inch-long silvery blue-green needles which point upwards, exposing the lower branches. Also, it has stiff branches so it supports heavy ornaments and other Christmas tree decorations well. And is often used to make wreaths, Christmas garlands and door swags. This species retains its needles well, making it ideal for a home with small children or pets.
Fraser fir (Abies fraseri)
“North Carolina grows a tree called a Fraser fir,” said Doug Hundley. And this Christmas tree species sells millions of trees ever year. Because of shipping costs, the eastern U.S. tends to sell more of the Fraser fir. The Fraser fir has a smart compact form, with well-defined branches and upward-growing needles that are retained well. And they are deep blue-green in color, and this species also has a lovely fragrance that fills the whole room.
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Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
According to the NCTA, the Douglas fir has been one of the most popular picks for the holidays in the Pacific Northwest since the 1920s. It’s even a relatively easy type of Christmas tree you can grow yourself. And as well as being shipped across the U.S., it’s also shipped to Hawaii, Guam and other Asian markets. The Douglas fir has dense foliage and a compact conical shape. And the needles (which are dark green or dark blue), can grow up to 1.5 inches in length, and radiate evenly around the branch. When crushed, the needles release a sweet fragrance.
Balsam fir (Abies balsamia)
As a popular type of Christmas tree for almost 250 years, the Balsam fir is a tall slender tree which is a great choice if you have limited space. It only reaches around 1.5 feet in diameter, but the dense dark green foliage rises into a graceful spire. And the bark is covered with resinous blisters which gives the species its name. Each branch has a double row of needles which are openly spaced and range between 0.75 and 1.5 inches in length, making them perfect for supporting tree ornaments. And the needles are long-lasting. The Balsam fir is renowned for its lingering fragrance–its often used for stuffing pine pillows and sachets.
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Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens)
The beautiful Colorado blue spruce is the national tree of Utah and Colorado. It features a regular pyramidal shape and a well-defined crown. And this is a narrow spruce species, reaching around three feet in diameter. The foliage ranges from gray-blue to a silvery blue. The needles are about 1.5 inches long, but very sharp, (so not ideal choice for little fingers!), and emit an unpleasant odor when crushed. However, this is one of the best species for needle retention. And as the tree makes a good ornamental, it’s becoming increasingly popular as a ‘living Christmas tree.’
White spruce (picea glauca)
Growers have exploited the characteristic blue-gray foliage of the Colorado blue spruce and grown varieties that favor the whiter color, including the White spruce. And this species is often chosen for its color, but it also boasts a natural shape and long-lasting durability. Like the Blue spruce, the White spruce has needles that give off a pungent aroma when crushed, giving the species its common name of ‘skunk spruce’. But it has superior needle retention to other spruces, and the needles are short, blunt and stiff (0.75 inches), making it ideal for hanging ornaments.
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Scots or Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris)
The Scots pine is everything you want a real Christmas tree to be. It’s bright green, with stiff branches, and won’t drop its needles even when it’s dried out. This type of Christmas tree is deservedly the most popular species in the U.S. With its resilient branches, and needles that grow in double clusters and range between one and an impressive three inches in length. And this makes it one of the best choices for hanging both light and heavy ornaments. The Scots pine’s durability makes it simple to replant, so you can use it as a living tree year after year.
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Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)
The Eastern white pine is the state tree of Maine and Michigan. It’s the tallest pine christmas tree species in the U.S. So trees are often sheared to make them suitable for Christmas trees, although some feel this makes the foliage over-dense. This variety has little in the way of fragrance. But it reputedly causes fewer allergic reactions than other species, making it a good option for those with allergies. The needles are extremely long (up to five inches), but their flexible nature makes this tree unsuitable for hanging heavy ornaments. However, the needle retention is excellent.
Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
The Eastern red cedar is actually not a cedar at all, but a member of the Juniper family, as the Latin name indicates. Before cultivated Christmas trees became readily available, this was the Christmas tree of choice for many people in the southern U.S. due to its conical form. Because it’s from the Juniper family, it has soft, pliable leaves rather than needles. And this makes it less suitable for hanging heavy ornaments. The color range for this variety is astounding, including dark green, bluish green, silvery, gray-green, bronze and purple.
Leyland cypress (Cupressus leylandii)
Perhaps better known as a landscape plant, the Leyland cypress is nevertheless a popular choice of Christmas tree species in the southeast. But it’s generally only available at ‘choose and cut’ tree farms. The Leighton Green strain of the Leyland Cypress is one most used for Christmas trees because of its attractive dark green foliage. The leaves of the Leyland cypress are generally flat and its overall appearance is coarser and less traditional than other varieties. However, it’s an especially good choice for those with sap allergies, because unlike the Spruce and Pine trees, it produces no sap.