A List of Evergreen Christmas Trees: Name, Type, and Description
This list will help you understand some of the varieties of Christmas tree that are available each year. Use it to evaluate what type of tree will match your personal style and perform best in your home.
Cupressus arizonica Greene
The Arizona Cypress is a very adaptable Christmas tree which is native to the American Southwest. It is unique among Christmas trees in that it is drought resistant, surviving with as little as 10 to 12 inches of water a year. It can grow in a variety of soils which makes it adaptable to different regions.
It is used as a Christmas tree, but is also very popular as privacy screen. The Cypress it narrower than most Christmas trees, described as having a steeple shape instead of a pyramid. Also, this tree has a pale, grey green color where the majority of Christmas trees have a deeper, forest green.
Abies balsamea (L.) Miller
The Balsam Fir takes nine to ten years to grow to the size of an average Christmas tree. The tree has long lasting needles, a very symmetrical shape, and that wonderful evergreen smell which make it a great choice for Christmas.
The needles are short, flat and blunt at the end. They grow in multiple rows along the branch. Similar to the Fraser Fir, Balsam needles are a deep green on top and silver underneath. The foliage is thick but airy. The branches are flexible and can’t always hold the really heavy ornaments.
Colorado Blue Spruce
Picea pungens Engelm.
The Colorado Blue Spruce Christmas tree grows naturally in the moist soil beside streams that flow through the Rocky Mountains. It is special among Christmas trees because of the distinct silvery blue color of its four sided needles. The bluish color comes from a wax which coats the leaves and can have a green, silver or white tint.
While the Blue Spruce has a nice pyramid shape and unique color, the drawbacks of this choice are sharp needles which fall off relatively quickly after the tree has been cut. For this reason the Blue Spruce is often sold as a living tree which can be planted outdoors after the holidays.
Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco
The Douglas Fir is a popular choice for a Christmas tree across the United States, especially in the western states. The Douglas Fir has a sweet smell. The soft needles are a shiny blue-green color which is lighter than most other trees on the market.
The needles of the Douglas Fir shoot out off the branches in all directions. This gives the tree a full, symmetrical look. Watch out for trees that are too full though; if the branches have been sheared, the tree can become very dense making it difficult to find space for your ornaments.
Eastern Red Cedar
Juniperus virginiana L.
The Eastern Red Cedar is a juniper Christmas tree with a natural pyramid shape. It is usually a deep green color with scaly, dense leaves. The branches are strong and can hold heavier ornaments, but the thick foliage means that decorations must be hung on the outer edges of the tree.
The Eastern Red Cedar has a wonderful scent, its wood is used to make cedar closets and chests. The wood, twigs and leaves can be distilled to create juniper oil and the blue, berry-like seed cones are used to flavor gin.
Eastern White Pine
Pinus strobus L.
If you have allergies, the White Pine is a great choice for a Christmas tree due to its lack of a strong aroma. These trees can be found across the United States and is often used for reforestation in the North East and Canada.
The White Pine has a better shape for a Christmas tree when it has been trimmed. This can make the branches very dense which means less ornaments on the tree. The needles grow in bundles of five and are soft and pliable. The branches are a greenish brown and blend in well with the blue to silver green leaves.
Abies fraseri (Pursh) Poir.
The Fraser Fir is one of the most popular types of Christmas trees, because of its fragrant odor, excellent shape, and ability to retain needles. The needles are soft, with a rich green color on top and silver underneath. The branches are strong with space between them. This allows room for more decorations and heavier ornaments.
The Fraser Fir is produced mainly in western North Carolina, southwest Virginia and eastern Tennessee. Each tree takes about 7 to 10 years to reach the size of an average Christmas tree, which is between 6 and 7 feet. Being from North Carolina myself, this is the tree I grew up with and I must say that it does make an excellent Christmas Tree.
Abies grandis (Dougl. ex D. Don) Lindl.
The Grand Fir is known for its wonderful smell and its rich history. Native American tribes used for the Fir in a variety of ways. One of the more interesting traditions that I discovered was a tribe that would mix parts of the young trees with oil for deodorant. Today, the Grand Fir is most popular in Idaho and Montana.
The Grand Fir works well as a Christmas tree, especially in colder climates. The needles are blunt on the tips and grow in two horizontal rows, like a part. They are very soft, have a glossy texture and a dark green color. It’s one downfall is that the branches aren’t very strong and might not be capable of holding heavier ornaments.
x Cupressocyparis leylandii
The Leyland Cypress is unique in that it does not occur naturally; new trees are grown from root cuttings. The Leylandii is attractive as a Christmas tree because of its tolerance with various types of soil, and its ability to grow really fast, as much as 4 ft in a year.
The leaves of the Leylandii are a soft green color when the tree is young and develop into a deep green with age. The needles are scaly and have a feathery texture. Although the tree has a natural pyramid shape, some shearing may be necessary. The tree does not have much of an aroma.
Abies procera Rehd.
The Noble fir is most popular in the Pacific Northwest, where is grows naturally in the moist, rich soil. It has a very symmetrical tree with strong branches. The needles are four sided and twist up on the branch. The Noble has great needle retention, and can last up to 6 weeks indoors when watered.
Picea abies (L.) Karsten
The Norway Spruce is originally from Europe, although it has been successfully cultivated in the northeastern part of the US. The needles are rounded, and an excellent color, however they do not stay on the branches very long after the tree has been cut. If you choose a Spruce tree it is best to cut it yourself about two weeks before Christmas.
The Norway Spruce is most famous for being the popular choice of Christmas tree for Rockefeller Center in New York City. It has strong branches with an attractive upward arch that make it a great choice. Because the tree is kept outdoors, in the cold weather, it retains its needles longer.
Pinus sylvestris L
The Scotch Pine is native to Europe and Asia, but is very adaptable to different soils and locations and has been grown in the US for a long time. The pine grows well in milder climates where some of the firs and spruces do not thrive making it a popular tree in the warmer states.
The Scotch Pine is best known for its ability to hold on to its needles. The needles develop in bunches of two and can grow to be between 1 and 3 inches. The tree comes in a variety of shades and has stiff branches for hanging ornaments. The Scotch pine is sheared by growers for the best possible shape.
Pinus virginiana (Mill.)
The Virginia Pine has strong branches, a mild pine scent, and needles which grow in bundles. When the branches have been sheared, the foliage will grow back and become very dense. The needles will stay on the branches for a long time after the tree has been cut if it is well watered.
A little fun fact: Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree was most likely a Virginia Pine.
White Fir / Concolor Fir
Abies concolor (Gord. and Glend.) Hildebr.
The White fir is also known as the Concolor fir. It produces small, soft needles which grow in rows and are bluish-green in color. The tree holds onto its needles and can last two weeks or more when properly watered. The branches are thin, so it works better with lightweight ornaments. The White Fir has a citrus-like scent which is thought to be better for people with allergies.