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Christmas Trees

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Douglas Fir Plantation
Noble and Grand Fir Plantation, Chilliwack, BC

Canada's Christmas Tree Species: Fir, Pine and Spruce

Balsam, Fraser, Douglas, Canaan, Concolor:

Balsam fir (Abies Balsamea) thrive in cooler climates, adapting to a variety of soils.
This wonderful species is native to Canada, ranging from Alberta to Newfoundland.
The most popular Christmas tree grown in Canada is characterized by:
a dark green appearance,
good needle retention,
an attractive form,
a wonderful fragrance.
Characteristics of balsam fir needles:
15-25 mm (3/4 -1 inch) long),
flat with a rounded or notched tip,
lower branches have two rows of needles along the sides of each branch,
dark-green on top and whiter on the bottom.
These trees naturally reach 12-18 meters (40-60 feet) in height and live 150-200 years.

Six to twelve years are required to produce a 6-7 foot Christmas tree that is ready for market.

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Fraser Fir: (Abies fraseri) thrive in fertile, rocky to sandy acidic soils.

Fraser Fir characteristics:
dark green color,
lush dense foliage,
excellent needle retention,
strong branches capable of carrying heavy ornaments,
nice light fragrance.
The Fraser fir's needles are:
soft , making the tree ideal for children to handle and decorate,
flat and up to 2cm long (1 inch long),
deep green with a blue-grey underside,
curled up (on upper branches).

This species was discovered by John Fraser, a Scottish explorer and botanist, when he was exploring the southern Appalachian Mountains in the late 18th century. Though these trees grow naturally typically at elevations above 1,500 meters  in the south-eastern United States, they are now grown widely, where possible, across the continent as Christmas trees.

Douglas Fir: (Pseudotsuga manziesii) grow throughout western North America, from the interior of British Columbia to the mountains of Mexico.
Douglas Fir characteristics:
dense bushy shape,
easily decorated,
sturdy branches are able to support a large number of Christmas tree lights and decorations.
Douglas fir needle Characteristics
Dark green or blue green,
2-3 cm (1 - 1.5 inches) long,
soft to touch,
radiate in all directions from the branch.
David Douglas, the renowned Scottish botanist studied and discovered this species in the 1820's. It is a strong softwood tree which is widely used in the construction industry. It also makes for a wonderful Christmas tree.

Stump Culture, the tree continues to live after harvest
Stump culture: the root system and
bottom whorls (branches) of the tree
remain after harvest. One of the
branches will turn into a
new Christmas tree

Plantation Grown BC Douglas Fir

Canaan Fir (Abies Balsamea) has many similarities to both the Fraser and the Balsam fir in growth and appearance, as it offers the wonderful bouquet of a Balsam fir combined with the beauty of a Fraser fir. The needles have a beautiful green topside, and a silver/white underside. Canaan fir grow in soils too wet to grow Fraser fir or Douglas fir. In addition, Canaan fir has a later bud break, reducing damage from late spring frosts. It is a beautiful tree that will gain importance in the years to come.

Noble Fir (Abies Procera) A beautiful Christmas tree with stiff branches and extended durability. This species is growing in popularity and is widely used to make wreaths, swags, garland and other Christmas products.

Grand Fir (Abies Grandis)

Grand fir (Abies grandis) can reach heights of 100 meters (300 feet). The needles are spread horizontally so that both the upper and lower sides of the branches are visible. The needles have glossy dark green tops with two highly visible white lines on the underside. The needles are 2-3 cm    (1 to 1½inches) in length.

White Fir or Concolor Fir (Abies Concolor) is an excellent ornamental tree and is widely planted in the Eastern United States and Canada. Its small, narrow needles are around 2-3cm (1-1½ inches) in length and are laid out in rows. They have good foliage color, good needle retention, and a pleasing shape and aroma.


White Pine (Pinus Strobus) towers over much of Eastern Canada’s boreal forests. A graceful evergreen, its fragrance and excellent needle retention have made it a popular Christmas tree for many years.

White Pine characteristics:
soft flexible branches and needles,
very little aroma (the white pine's mild fragrance is good for people with allergies),
White Pine Needle characteristics:
soft flexible branches and needles,
lacy blue-green foliage,
7-10 cm (3-4 inches) in length,
grow in bunches of 5.

In the wild, it can reach up to 45 meters (150 feet) with a trunk diameter of 1.5 meters (4.5 feet) This tree is naturally occurring from Newfoundland to South-Eastern Manitoba. Because of its size and strength, the white pine was once the wood of choice for constructing ocean-going vessels. Particularly straight stands of trees were designated to become masts for sailing ships. Today these trees are valued for their smooth white wood which contains few knotholes and doesn't twist or shrink.

Notice the 4 bunches of needles, indicative of a white pine
SCOTS PINE (Pinus Sylvestris) was one of the first plantation grown Christmas Trees in North America.
Scots Pine characteristics
excellent conical shape,
stiff branches which are good for supporting heavy ornaments and lights,
dense foliage,
wonderful aroma.
Scots Pine Needle characteristics:
blue green,
good needle retention even if the tree becomes dry,
long - 5-8 cm (2-4 inch) and sharp,
grow in bunches of 2.

Scots pine will grow up to 25-30 meters (80-100 feet) in height.

It is the most widely distributed pine around the world.

Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea Pungens) are slower growing trees, taking a few years more to bring to market, but well worth the wait. They have a natural colour variation from blue to green.
Colorado Blue Spruce characteristics:
symmetrical shape,
attractive blue foliage.
Colorado Blue Spruce needle characteristics:
15-30 mm (.5-1.5 inches) long needles,
short and stiff,
very good needle retention.

This tree naturally grows to 20 - 30 meters (65-100 feet) in height. They may grow slowly, but they last up to 600 years in the wild.

White Spruce (Picea Glauca)grow across North America throughout the Canadian Shield and northern United States.
White Spruce characteristics:
excellent shape,
wonderful color,
Needle characteristics:
blunt tip,
blue green needles,
short and stiff, 1.5 - 2.2 cm (1/2 - 1 inch)
good needle retention.

The wood from white spruce is light and soft with a straight grain. The wonderful properties of this wood have found wide uses including musical instruments, plywood and furniture. The trees will reach up to 50 meters (140 feet) in height and grow to be up to 300 years of age.

Pollen on Pine trees
A White Pine producing pollen for bees to pollinate the trees

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Canadian Christmas Tree Gowers Association     © The Canadian Christmas Tree Growers' Association
Updated by Lewis Downey, 2013

The Leading tip of a
Spruce Tree