Confession: when I was younger I thought that all Christmas trees are the same species. There are actually many different species and they all have different traits. By learning about the traits of each you can choose the most perfect tree for you!

Here is a run-down on some of the most popular and available types:

Europe

Nordmann Fir

Latin name: Abies nordmanniana

Native to: the Caucasus Mountains south and east to the Black Sea

Pros: it has a nice conical shape, the needles stay on the tree for a long time, the needles are a nice color and not sharp.

Cons: on the more expensive side.

Fun fact: its soft white wood is often used for paper production.

Norway Spruce

Latin name: Picea abies

Native to: central, northern, and eastern Europe

Pros: structured pyramid shape, nice smell, easy on the wallet, soft needles

Cons: needles are a bit sharp and can fall off, sticky sap on trunk

Fun fact: the oldest tree in the world, nicknamed Old Tjikko, is a Norway spruce and is about 9,550 year old!

A Norway spruce in the wild. Image credits: Ivar Leidus

A Norway spruce in the wild. Image credits: Ivar Leidus

Silver Fir

Latin name: Abies alba

Native to: central and southern Europe

Pros: nice conical shape, good needle retention

Cons: may not be available at all tree markets, sparse foliage

Fun fact: was the first species used as a Christmas tree.

Silver firs have a striking needle color. Image credits: Hans

The Blue Spruce

Latin name: Picea pungens

Native to: Rocky Mountains in USA

Pros: blue-green color, nice conical shape, very symmetrical, holds needles

Cons: sharper needles

Fun fact: the latin word “pungens” means sharply pointed and refers to the needles.

The blue spruce has a nice natural conical shape. Image credits: USDA-NRCS PLANTS

The Scots Pine

Latin name: Pinus sylvestris

Native to: all across Eurasia

Pros: nice conical shape when young, long-lasting aroma, good needle retention

Cons: flexible branches aren’t good for heavy ornaments

Fun fact: One of the few used as Christmas tree and both Europe and North America.

Others: Noble fir (Abies procera), Serbian spruce (Picea omorika), Stone pine (Pinus pinea), Swiss pine (Pinus cembra)

It’s definitely not just found in Scotland. Image credits: Nova

North America

Fraser fir

Latin name: Abies fraseri

Native to: small area at higher altitudes in southern Appalachians

Pros: dark green soft needles, ships well, excellent needle retention, nice scent, strong branches, compact (good for limited spaces)

Cons: dense foliage not ideal for hanging many ornaments

Fun fact: named after the Scottish botanist who explored the Appalachians in late 18th century.

Christmas trees (including Fraser firs) are usually grown in plantations. Image credits: Soil-Science.info

Douglas fir

Latin name: Pseudotsuga menziesii

Native to: Western North America

Pros: nice dark green, blue-green color, soft needles, full looking, sweet smell

Cons: weak branches

Fun fact: This tree species is not a true fir and has its own unique species classification.

You probably won’t have a 9-foot-diameter Douglas fir in your living room. Image credits: Anders B. Wilse

Balsam fir

Latin name: Abies balsamea

Native to: across Canada and eastern USA

Pros: soft needles, retains needles well, fragrant, durable

Cons: more expensive

Fun fact: named for the balsam (resin) found in the bark, which was used to treat wounds in the Civil War.

Oh Balsam fir, oh Balsam fir, how soft are your needles. Image credits: Famartin

Eastern White Pine

Latin name: Pinus strobus

Native to: eastern North America

Pros: little fragrance (good for people who suffer from allergic reactions), retains needles

Cons: weak branches, little fragrance

Fun fact: largest pine tree in the USA.

Virginia Pine

Latin name: Pinus virginiana

Native to: Eastern USA

Pros: strong braches, cheap, nice scent

Cons: sharp needles

Fun fact: it has only started being used as a Christmas tree recently.

This pine needs to be mechanical sheared into the cone shape attractive for Christmas tree. Image credits: Famartin

Others: Blue spruce (Picea pungens)- see Europe, Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)- see Europe, Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), White Spruce (Picea glauca), Grand fir (Abies grandis), Noble fir (Abies procera), Red fir (Abies magnifica), White fir (Abies concolor), Pinyon pine (Pinus edulis), Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi)

When you buy a Christmas tree this holiday season, be an informed shopper and choose the one that matches your needs the most.

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