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Christmas Trees: A Glossary

Martha Stewart Living, December 2007

The various shapes, textures, colors, and scents you might come across -- and the reasons some trees look better wearing ornaments than others.

1. Noble Fir
Sturdy branches make this Pacific Northwest native a good choice if you have a lot of weighty ornaments. The tree has thick, silvery-green needles and limbs that stick straight out from the trunk, giving this fir a full, rounded appearance.

2. White Pine
This large blue-green tree grows throughout the East, to Ohio and parts of the South. It's often sheared to have a more narrow silhouette, but its dense look can obscure ornaments. The springy branches aren't good with bulky garlands or lights.

3. Concolor Fir
Indigenous to the West, this sweet-scented tree has a tall, narrow silhouette. The loosely spaced, bluish needles are great for showcasing ornaments. It's also called a white fir.

4. 'Carolina Sapphire' Cypress
This southern dweller is naturally broad and has a strong scent of lemon and mint. It's very similar to the 'Blue Ice' cypress (and has similar drawbacks).

5. Nordmann Fir
The preferred Christmas tree in Europe, this evergreen is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. It's grown primarily in the Pacific Northwest and is prized for its fat pyramid shape and lush, dark-green foliage.

6. Leyland Cypress

Feathery, dark-green to gray foliage sets apart this Christmas tree, the most popular one in the Southeast. The silhouette varies from tree to tree and can be tall and slender or squat and rounded. The species absorbs an unusually large amount of water; its stand needs to be refilled several times per day.

7. Balsam Fir
This classic northeastern Christmas tree is a near twin of the Fraser fir. Its needles are a deep green, and the tree has a pyramid shape that culminates in a slender top.

8. Douglas Fir
One of the most common holiday trees in the Pacific Northwest, this species has firm branches and soft, blue-green or dark-green needles that emit a fragrance when crushed. Light in weight, it can be easier to transport than other trees.

9. 'Blue Ice' Cypress
A cultivar of the Arizona cypress, this silvery-blue tree has a citrus aroma and a narrow steeple shape. It's found in the Gulf states, Georgia, and South Carolina. The branches support small lights, tinsel, and a few ornaments, but nothing heavy.

10. Fraser Fir
A pair of silvery stripes on the underside of each needle distinguishes this aromatic tree from the nearly identical balsam fir. Found in high-elevation regions of the South as well as in the Northeast and Great Lakes states, it has strong, upturned branches that are ideal for holding ornaments.

Boughs, Up Close (see image referenced)

1. Balsam Fir

2. Leyland Cypress

3. 'Carolina Sapphire' Cypress

4. Fraser Fir

5. Nordmann Fir

6. White Pine

7. Noble Fir

8. Douglas Fir

9. 'Blue Ice' Cypress

10. Concolor Fir

Comments (2)

  • auntiestacey 22 Nov, 2010

    Perhaps when this article is run again, you could indicate which tree is which (e.g. from left, or from right) and with the boughs, starting from lower left or right. In my home state, we have Norfolk pines that grow in our climate, all others are shipped in, so I have no first hand knowledge of which pine is which.

  • PaperRockScissor 17 Oct, 2009

    Is the Balsam Fir the one that has a sort of tangerine-y smell? The one we got a couple years ago had a strong cleaner smell. I'd like to get the tangerine smelling one. Thanks!