MR TREE TYPES & TIPS
Mr. Tree Farm carries a wide variety of trees including but not necessarily limited to: Scotch Pine, White Pine, Austrian Pine, Canaan Fir, Frazer Fir, Douglas Fir, Concolor Fir, Blasam Fir. Colorado Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce, Black Hills Spruce, Green Spruce. You can Choose and Cut your tree off of our 30 acre farm; select a tree from our fresh cut retail center or take home a Balled and Burlaped tree to plant in your yard after the holidays! All fresh cut trees have been cut no earlier than November 5th, and some within days of your arrival, feel free to inquire accordingly. (FYI most big box stores and big retailers have to have their trees cut as early as September to get them into the distribution chain).
#1 /Premium grade (5-9.5 ft) $12-$18/ft
Steeplechasers (10 ft +) $20-24/ft
CHOOSE-YOU CUT (from plantation)
(White Pine) $$14/foot
(ALL BUT BLUE: Green, Norway, etc.)
$18/ft (up to 10 ft)
10 -12 feet $20/ft;
12.5-14 feet $22/ft;
14.5+ feet $24/ft
(Fraser, Douglas, Canaan etc.)
$18/ft up to 10 ft
10- 12′ = $20/ft
12.5-14 foot = $22/ft
BLUE SPRUCE: $20/FT
(if over 10′ $24/foot)
We have “table-top” fir for w tree stands: $49.95 choice (includes the tree stand)
CHOOSING AND CUTTING A FARM TREE
If you are planning to cut your own tree from the Mr. Tree Plantation, you will need to bring your own saw, or a Mr. Tree Associate will lend you a Mr. Tree saw, provided identification or a credit car as security until saw is returned.
Likewise Mr. Tree supplies customers with a map and price list for plantation trees. Although the map indicates the general location of each plantation species, IT IS POSSIBLE FOR SOME FIELDS TO CONTAIN DIFFERENT VARIETIES, AND THEREFORE DIFFERENT PRICES.**
For this reason, if you plan to cut a tree, you assume the risk, that if you cut a tree and it was a different variety than you believed; ONCE SEVERED FROM ITS ROOT YOU OWN IT!!!YOUR DECISION IS FINAL! The tree cannot be re-attached to its root or replanted.
Accordingly, if you are uncertain as to the variety, and a difference in price will adversly affect your Christmas, BE SURE TO LOCATE A MR. TREE ASSOCIATE, to verify the variety BEFORE YOU CUT THE TREE.
**Christmas trees take an average of 8-15 years to grow to market size. Pine trees average 8-10 years, Spruce and Fir 12-15. The taller the tree the longer it takes.
Christmas tree cultivation is a fulltime commitment. It requires year-round planting, , nurturing, sheering, mowing; protection from insects, varmints, and adverse weather. Mr Tree enthusiastically undertakes this responsibility to offer a quality Christmas tree to you!
A customer’s decision to cut a tree is the MOST IMPORTANT and endearing part of the Mr. Tree experience, as explained throughout this website. Mr. Tree encourages customers to enjoy the experience with holiday glee! But PLEASE understand that your decision to cut a tree has a corresponding obligation. Once the tree is severed from the root, it cannot be replanted or reattached.
Therefore, be sure that the tree you cut is the species that you wanted. Once you cut it, ITS YOURS! If you harvest a Fraser Fir, mistakingly believing it is a Pine tree, there is NO RECOURSE: THE TREE IS YOURS! Pls note, that it takes 4-5 years LONGER to cultivate a Fir/Spruce over a Pine, and less than 5 minutes to harvest the same. We understand that people sometimes make mistakes, but we cannot be responsible for your mis-identification.
IT MAY HAVE TAKE US 15 YEARS TO BRING YOUR SELECTION TO MARKET. We cannot alter your decision once the tree is cut. Therefore, if you are uncertain as to the variety and you are shopping related to price, then you should ask for assistance, to verify the variety.
HELPFUL SUGGESTIONS TO AVOID CONFUSION:
1) Before you embark into the field clarify with MR. Tree the type of tree you wish to harvest (and why)? is it for nostalgia? look? feel? smell? price? A Mr Tree Associate can help you achieve your goal.
2) If you are solely looking for the cheapest tree, consider the Fresh Cut retail center, as the trees generally run less;
3) If you start in the pine fields furthest to the North, and find yourself migrating south, you are likely to end up in the most expensive varieties.
4) PLEASE use common sense, If the map says “PINE FIELD” and obviously you are surrounded by long needled pine trees and yet you are contemplating cutting a tree that is A BLUE COLORED SHORT NEEDLED TREE, CHANCES ARE ITS AN ORPHAN BLUE SPRUCE, NOT A PINE! Pine trees and Spruce are as different–visually– as daffodils and roses, pls use common sense!
My apologies if some of these caveats are redundant or pointed. However, Mr Tree is small family owned tree farm: NOT Home Depot, or Walmart. Our trees ARE OUR BUSINESS, not a gimmick to get you in the door to buy something else.
Accordingly, our survival is dependent upon our tree harvest, some of which takes a decade or more to bring to fruition. On ocassion customers temporarily spoil the joy of the season with their insistance that we discount our plantation stock because of their hastey carelessness harvesting a tree that was their mistake. This is unfair to not only Mr. Tree, but to another customer who would have been wholeheartedly willing to harvest your mistake, pay us for our efforts, and merrily be on their way.
ROSES ARE RED, CHRISTMAS TREES ARE GREEN!
In comparison, the average rose takes @ 6 months to cultivate for market. On Valentine’s day, the average dozen of roses cost $49. If the same cultivation cycle was applied to roses as Christmas trees (10 years x 2 times per year), your Valentine bouquet would cost $1000.
COLORADO BLUE SPRUCE
Picea pungens Engelm.
Description: Colorado blue spruce, or blue spruce, is an attractive tree often used for Christmas trees or as ornamentals, particularly in the eastern United States and Europe. It is the official state tree of both Colorado and Utah. The species generally reaches a height of 65-115 feet at maturity with a diameter of 2-3 feet. It has a narrow, pyramidal shape and cone-shaped crown. As trees become older, they often take on a more irregular appearance. While blue spruce grows relatively slowly, it is long-lived and may reach ages of 600-800 years. Leaves (needles) are 1-1 1/2 inches long on lower branches but somewhat shorter on upper branches. They are 4-sided and have a very sharp point on the end. It is this point which gives the species its name “pungens”, from the Latin word for sharp as in puncture wound. Needles are generally dull bluish-gray to silvery blue and emit a resinous odor when crushed. Some trees have a more distinct bluish-white or silvery-white foliage. The cultivated variety ‘glauca’ is noted for this type of coloration. Nursery managers also select for “shiners” which demonstrate this very desirable characteristic. Needles occur on small peg-like structures on the twig called sterigmata. The sterigmata persist on the twigs after needles have fallen, which is usually after the third or fourth year. Both male and female flowers (strobili) occur in the same tree, although in different locations. Pollination occurs in late spring and cones mature in one season. In the fall, cones are 2-4 inches long and turn chestnut brown with stiff, flattened scales. Cones generally persist on the tree for one to two years after seed fall. The bark is thin becoming moderately thick with age. It is somewhat pale gray in small flattened scales when young, then turns reddish brown and furrowed with age. Blue spruce is moderately shade tolerant and grows best in deep, rich, gravely soils, often along stream banks and other sites with high moisture levels. It usually does not occur in large stands but is found in small groves or in association with Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce or ponderosa pine. A deep penetrating root system makes the species resistant to being blown over. Major pests include the western spruce dwarf mistletoe, spruce bark beetle, and spruce budworm. Trees infected with mistletoe typically develop abnormal masses of branches called “witches brooms”. With severe infestations, trees may be killed. Blue spruce is finding increasing popularity as a Christmas tree as a result of its symmetrical form and attractive blue foliage. The species has an excellent natural shape and requires little shearing. Additionally, needle retention is among the best for the spruces. Its popularity as an ornamental leads many consumers to use blue spruce as a living Christmas tree, to be planted after the holiday season. Range: Blue spruce occurs naturally from western Wyoming and eastern Idaho southward through central Colorado and Central Utah. The southern limits are New Mexico and Arizona. It occurs at elevations of 6,000 to 11,000 feet; generally at higher elevations in the more southern areas. Propagation: Most propagation is by seed but blue spruce can be grafted or grown from rooted cuttings. Vegetative propagation is more often used to perpetuate the rarer, more desirable forms of the species. Picea abies or Picea pungens are preferred rootstock for grafting. Over 70 cultivated varieties have been named. Uses: The wood is light to pale brown in color and is lightweight, soft, and brittle. The lack of natural pruning leads to boards often being full of knots. Blue spruce grows in relatively inaccessible locations leading to its not being commercially important as a timber species. The wood is suitable, however, for posts, poles, and fuel. Blue spruce has limited value to wildlife but does provide cover and seeds for squirrels, rodents and some birds. In the western United States, the species has found some use in shelterbelts.
White Fir Abies concolor (Gord. and Glend.) Hildebr.
Description: White fir, also commonly called concolor fir, is native to the western United States and may reach sizes of 130-150 ft. in height and 3 to 4 ft. in diameter. The oldest white firs may occasionally reach 350 years of age. It produces a spire-like crown with a straight trunk
On older trees, the lower one-half to one-third of the crown is often free of branches. Leaves (needles) are small and narrow and occur in rows. On upper branches, needles tend to be thicker and more curved than those on lower branches. Needles are usually 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch long, pointed or notched at the tip, bluish-green when young turning dull green with age. Typically, they are flat, without stalks. The bark on younger trees is thin, smooth, gray with numerous resin-bearing pockets. Older bark is thicker, reddish-brown to light gray and broken into irregular, flattened scales. Both male and female flowers (strobili) are found on the same tree. Pollination occurs in the spring and cones mature in one season. Cones are barrel-shaped, about 3 to 6 inches long, and mature in early fall. Cones are upright and generally disintegrate after seeds are shed. Good seed crops occur at 2- to 4-year intervals. White fir is tolerant of a considerable amount of shade. Its best growth is on moist loamy soils, but may often be found on dry, thin soils. The species seldom occurs in pure stands but grows in association with numerous other species depending on location and elevation. White fir is commonly found with Douglas-fir, sugar pine, ponderosa pine, and red fir. White fir is severely damaged by mistletoe. Leaves of white fir are often attacked by spruce budworm and Douglas-fir tussock moth. Bark beetles may also be a serious problem in some areas. As a Christmas tree, white fir has good foliage color, a pleasing natural shape and aroma, and good needle retention. Range: White fir has one of the largest ranges of any of the commercial western firs. It can be found from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and New Mexico to the Coast Range in California and Oregon. White fir occurs from 6000 ft. to 11,000 ft. in elevation in the Rocky Mountains and as low as 2300 ft. near the Pacific Coast. Differences in habitat as well as growth requirements and morphological characteristics have led some authors to propose the separation of white fir into two taxonomic varieties, one in the Rocky Mountains and the other in the western part of the species’ range. Propagation: Most propagation is by seed, although both rooting and grafting has been successful. Most vegetative propagation has been to increase the number of rarer forms. Several cultivars have been propagated including a weeping white fir sold under the name of Abies concolor `Pendula’. Uses: White fir is an excellent ornamental tree and is widely planted in the eastern United States and Canada. It is often used in cemeteries as a contrast to darker-colored evergreens. The wood of white fir is light, soft and coarse-grained. Its primary uses have been for pulpwood, lumber, furniture, and boxes and crates. Because the wood lacks a distinctive odor, it was used in earlier times for tubs in which to store butter. White fir is important to many species of wildlife. Blacktail and mule deer feed on the buds and leaves during the winter, porcupines eat the bark, and Douglas pine squirrels are fond of the seeds. Grouse may also eat seeds after they fall from the cones.
Fraser Fir Abies fraseri (Pursh) Poir.
Description: In many respects, Fraser fir and balsam fir are quite similar, although the geographic ranges of the two species do not overlap. Some scientists even suggest that because of the many similarities, the two species were once a single species which has since evolved into the present-day forms. Fraser fir was named for John Fraser (1750-1811), a Scot botanist who explored the southern Appalachian Mountains in the late 18th century. The species is sometimes called Southern balsam or Southern balsam fir. Locally Fraser fir is known as “She balsam” because of the resin filled blisters on the tree’s trunk. Red spruce, often associated with Fraser fir, is called “He balsam” and lacks the distinctive blisters. Fraser fir is a uniformly pyramid-shaped tree which reaches a maximum height of about 80 feet and a diameter of 1-1.5 feet. Strong branches are turned slightly upward which gives the tree a compact appearance. Leaves (needles) are flattened, dark-green with a medial groove on the upper side and two broad silvery-white bands on the lower surface. These bands consist of several rows of stomata (pores). Leaves are 1/2 to one inch long, have a broad circular base, and are usually dark green on the upper surface and lighter on the lower surface. On lower branches, leaves are two-ranked (occurring in two opposite rows). On upper twigs, leaves tend to curl upward forming a more “U-shaped” appearance. Fraser fir is monecious meaning that both male and female flowers (strobili) occur on the same tree. Flowers are receptive in May to June depending on elevation and other environmental conditions. The species is wind pollinated, and cones mature in a single season. At maturity, cones are 2-2 1/2 inches long with bracts longer than the scales and appearing reflexed (bent over). The presence of these visible cone bracts is a distinguishing feature of Fraser fir as compared to balsam fir. Upon ripening in September to November, cones fall apart leaving an erect central core. Red squirrels are the primary consumers of seeds. Bark is usually gray or gray-brown, thin, smooth with numerous resin blisters on young trees. As trees become older, the bark tends to develop into thin, papery scales. Fraser fir is intermediate in shade tolerance and is usually found on fertile, rocky to sandy soils which are acidic. Natural associates are red spruce, beech and yellow birch. Rhododendrons also are found in this ecosystem, and add significant beauty during their flowering season. The most damaging natural enemy is the balsam woolly adelgid (formerly called an aphid) which is an imported, wingless insect. Phytophthora root disease attacks Fraser fir, but is most harmful at lower elevations. Some scientists also point to air pollution as a contributor to the decline of many natural red spruce-Fraser fir stands. The combination of form, needle retention, dark blue-green color, pleasant scent and excellent shipping characteristics has led to Fraser fir being a most popular Christmas tree species. North Carolina produces the majority of Fraser fir Christmas trees. It requires from 7 to 10 years in the field to produce a 6-7 feet tree. Range: Fraser fir has a somewhat restricted range. It grows naturally only at elevations above 4,500 feet in the Southern Appalachian Mountains from southwest Virginia, through western North Carolina, and into eastern Tennessee. A number of stands occur in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Its highest native habitat is Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina (6,684 feet) which is the highest U.S. point east of the Mississippi River. A variety of balsam fir, phanerolepis, occurs in the Northeast United States and Canada and as far south as West Virginia and Virginia (38 degees north latitude). This variety is best described as an intermediate form between balsam fir and Fraser fir and may represent a remnant of a once continuous range of the two species. Propagation: Most propagation is by seeds although propagation by cuttings, and grafting has also been used for special purposes. Propagation via tissue culture has been attempted but not on a large scale. Uses: Principal uses are generally the same as for balsam fir, although Fraser fir has been used less for timber because of the difficult terrain on which it grows. The wood is soft and brittle and may be used for pulpwood, light frame construction, interior knotty paneling, and crates. Fraser fir boughs have often been used for “pine pillows” and bed stuffing
Norway Spruce Picea abies (L.) Karsten
Description: Norway spruce is one of the most important species on the European Continent. More than 100 forms and varieties have been named. Although not native to the Western hemisphere, the species and a number of its varieties are commonly planted here, particularly in southeastern Canada and northeastern United States. Originally, a number of plants were established as ornamentals, with Christmas tree plantings being established more recently. It has escaped cultivation in several localities and is considered naturalized in some of these areas. In Europe, Norway spruce grows from 130 to 215 feet in height, but in the United States is seldom more than 130 feet tall. Diameter may reach as much as two feet on older trees. It is readily identified by its dark green needles and drooping branchlets. Trees have dark green crown with a triangular shape. Leaves (needles) are 4-sided (rectangular in section), 1/2-1 inch long, and sharp or somewhat blunt at the tip. At the base of each needle is a twig-like projection (sterigmata) which remains after the needle is lost. Although sometimes confused with true firs (Abies), spruces in general have 1) rectangular rather than flat needles, and 2) cones which hang down rather than stand erect on the stem. Additionally, spruce cones fall from the tree after seeds are disseminated, whereas fir cones disintegrate. Male and female flowers are found on the same tree and are produced in late spring. Norway Spruce produces cones 4-7 inches in length, with wedge-shaped scales. These cones are the largest of any spruce species. Cones mature in one year and ripen from September to November. The species has a reddish bark, giving it the nickname of “red fir”, which flakes off in scales as the tree matures. The species is adapted to cool, temperate climates. Growth is best in full sunlight in deep, rich, moist soils. It is generally shallow-rooted and does not produce a taproot, thus is subject to being blown over by wind. One of the most important pests is the eastern spruce gall aphid, which lays eggs at the base of partially developed leaves near the tips of the twigs. A large cone-like gall develops at this point, beyond which all growth ceases. The spruce budworm can also cause damage to buds and foliage, but less so than for white or red spruce. For Christmas trees, overall color of Norway spruce is fair to excellent, but needle retention is considered poor unless the trees are cut fresh and kept properly watered. Growth during the first 10 years after field planting is relatively slow and 8 to 11 years are required to grow a 6-7 foot tree. Range: Norway spruce has a rather extensive range in Europe, growing from Scandinavia to the Balkans to the Alps. It is a cool climate species and is found at elevations of 3,300 feet to 7,500 feet. Propagation: Most propagation is by seed. Rooting is difficult and a challenge. For grafting, Norway spruce is a preferred understock for a number of spruce species. It has also been a model species for use in tissue culture, and procedures developed in Norway spruce are now being adapted to other tree species of interest. Uses: The wood is strong for its weight, odorless, but slightly resinous and is of importance in the manufacture of pulp and paper. Resinous bark exudations furnish what is known as “Burgundy pitch” which is the basic material for a number of varnishes and medicinal materials. New leafy shoots can be used for brewing spruce beer, although Norway spruce is not as desirable as black or red spruce. The wood has also been used for violin sound boards, but is not the preferred choice.
Fir Abies balsamea (L.) Miller
Description: First described in 1768, balsam fir is a medium-sized tree generally reaching 40-60 feet in height and 1-1 1/2 feet in diameter. It exhibits a relatively dense, dark-green, pyramidal crown with a slender spire-like tip. The scientific name “balsamea” is an ancient word for the balsam tree, so named because of the many resinous blisters found in the bark. Balsam fir and Fraser fir have many similar characteristics, although geographic ranges of the two species do not overlap. On lower branches needles generally occur as two-ranked (two rows along sides of the branch), 3/4 – 1 1/2 inches long, spreading and not crowded. On older branches, the needles tend to be shorter and curved upward so as to cover the upper sides of the twigs. Individual needles are somewhat flat and may be blunt or notched at the end. Needles have a broad circular base and are usually dark green on the upper surface, lighter on the lower surface. Two silvery bands of stomata (pores) are found on the lower surface. Balsam fir has both male and female flowers (or strobili) on the same tree. Flowers are receptive in late May to early June. The species is wind pollinated, and cones mature in a single season. At maturity, cones are 2 to 3 1/2 inches long with bracts shorter than scales. The presence of these short cone bracts is a distinguishing feature when balsam fir is compared Fraser fir. Upon ripening in September to November, cones fall apart leaving an erect central core. Balsam fir bark is thin, ash-gray, and smooth except for numerous blisters on young trees. These blisters contain a sticky, fragrant, liquid resin. Thus, the species has been sometimes referred to as “blister pine”. Upon maturity, bark may become up to 1/2 inch thick, red-brown and broken into thin scales. The species thrives in cooler climates and demands abundant soil moisture and a humid atmosphere. It is generally found in the Canadian and Hudsonian zones from sea level to about 5,000 feet in elevation. Growth is best on well-drained, sandy loam soils that are somewhat acid. The species is tolerant of shade and may reach 150-200 years of age. Pure stands may be found in swamps, but balsam fir often occurs with white spruce, black spruce and aspen on upland sites. Chief enemies are the spruce budworm and balsam woolly adelgid (formerly called an aphid), heart-rot fungi, and fire. A shallow root system also renders the trees vulnerable to high winds and heavy spring snow storms. As a Christmas tree, balsam fir has several desirable properties. It has a dark-green appearance, long-lasting needles, and attractive form. It also retains its pleasing fragrance. Nine to ten years in the field are required to produce a 6-7 foot tree. Range: Abies balsamea occurs naturally from northern Alberta to Labrador, southward to Pennsylvania. This geographical distribution is larger than for any other North American fir species. A variety of balsam fir, phanerolepis, occurs as far south as West Virginia and Virginia (38 degrees north latitude). This variety is best described as an intermediate form between balsam fir and Fraser fir although classified with balsam fir. Propagation: Most propagation is by seeds, although natural layering may occur from lower branches in contact with moist soil. A few selected cultivated forms are commercially propagated by cuttings, and grafting has also been used for special purposes. Propagation via tissue culture has been attempted but not on a large scale. Uses: The wood is soft and brittle and has been used primarily for pulpwood. The wood is also used for light frame construction, interior knotty paneling, and crates. Wood resin in the bark blisters is the source of Canada balsam used for making of microscope slides. Resin was sold in stores as a confection prior to the advent of chewing gum, and resinous fir knots were once used as torches. A balm of balsam fir resin was used in Civil War as an external application to the injuries of combat. Balsam fir boughs are often used for stuffing “pine pillows”, with the aromatic foliage serving as a deodorant. Moose and whitetail deer browse the foliage, while chickadees, nutcrackers, squirrels and porcupines eat the seeds. The spruce grouse uses fir forests for cover and obtains food from the needles.
Canaan Fir Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis (Fern.)
Description: Canaan (pronounced “Ka-naan”, with emphasis on the last syllable) is a relative newcomer to the Christmas tree market. It has many similarities to both Fraser and balsam firs in growth and appearance. Unfortunately, this similarity which has led to a great deal of confusion. In 1909, a variety of balsam fir was described in the literature as having cone scales extending from the bracts. This morphology was a deviation from typical balsam fir cones where the scales are not extended. This variety was then named “phanerolepis” which actually means conspicuous scales. The scientific name of Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis was assigned. The common names most often used were “bracted balsam fir” and “Blue Ridge fir”. Canaan fir had not, at that time, been described separately. Bracted balsam fir is found from Labrador to Ontario, and from the coast of Maine to the higher mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. The environments in which most natural stands are found is quite similar to those of balsam fir and Fraser fir. The optimum habitat appears to be a cool climate, abundant moisture and deep, well-drained soils. Soils are moderately to strongly acidic. In the mid 1930’s, suggestions were made by several authors that some specimens of the variety phanerolepis had a sufficient number of traits of both balsam and Fraser fir that it should not be recognized as a variety but as a separate species. These specimens were generally found in West Virginia and Virginia. One author suggested the name be changed to Abies intermedia to reflect this intermediate nature of the plants’ characteristics. The classification as a separate species has since fallen out of favor, but some commercial nurseries still market the trees as Abies intermedia. Where does Canaan fir fit into the scheme? Canaan fir is so-named because several of the original trees with the intermediate morphology were identified from a limited area in West Virginia, generally referred to as the Canaan Valley. Taxonomically, Canaan fir is considered the same as bracted balsam fir and has the scientific name of Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis. However, growth traits of the trees from these southern regions are somewhat different than for other bracted balsam fir. Thus, there occurs a dilemma as to how Canaan fir should be classified. There are lots of opinions. The simplest solution is probably to consider Canaan fir as a special ecotype of bracted balsam fir; this ecotype having unique characteristics as a result of the environment to which it has been exposed. It is not currently considered a separate species. Range: Because Canaan fir is probably best identified as an ecotype, its range is somewhat undefined. Bracted balsam fir is found from sea level in the Northeast to as high as 3,700 feet in Virginia. Original Canaan fir collections for seedling production were made in a small area in West Virginia at elevations generally above 3,000 feet, although trees of this ecotype may exist in other areas. Propagation: Commercial propagation is by seeds. Information regarding other techniques is limited but it is reasonable to assume methods appropriate to the eastern fir species would be applicable. Uses: Because of the similarity of Canaan fir to the other eastern firs, its uses are similar, although inaccessibility of stands limits the amount of wood which can be harvested.
Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco
Description: Douglas-fir is not related to the true firs. This wide ranging species grows from 70 to 250 feet tall. The branches are spreading to drooping, the buds sharply pointed and the bark is very thick, fluted, ridged, rough and dark brown. The needles are dark green or blue green, 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, soft to the touch and radiate out in all directions from the branch. They have a sweet fragrance when crushed. Pollen strobili are small and reddish-brown. Young cones are small, oval shaped and hang downward. They are reddish-brown to gray, 3″ long and do not dissipate to spread seed as do true firs (Abies sp.). The cones open in the late summer to disperse the seeds and will continue to hang on the trees through the fall. Range: The entire range includes central California, western Oregon and Washington, parts of the Rockies and extends north to Alaska. It grows under a wide variety of environments from extremely dry, low elevation sites to moist sites. On the west side of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada, it is often the predominate species, but usually occurs in conjunction with several other confers. On the coasts, it is associated with western hemlock and other conifers. Bigcone Douglas-fir (P. macrocarpa), the other Pseudotsuga species in western North America, has a very restricted range limited to Southern California and Baja, Mexico. It is not used as a Christmas tree. Under natural conditions, Douglas-fir has established primarily after fires on wetter sites. The trees can live for a thousand years, largely due to a very thick bark that allows them to survive moderate fires. Thus many ancient old-growth forests contain large Douglas-fir that represent the legacy of fires that occurred many centuries ago. Propagation: Seed is generally germinated in bare root nurseries and increasingly in container nurseries. It is usually sold as a two or three year old transplant. Research has been done on grafting and rooting from cuttings. The practicality of these techniques has yet to be proven and remains more of a curiosity rather than a new trend to produce seedlings from trees that exhibit superior Christmas tree characteristics. Uses: The Douglas-fir has been the major Christmas tree species used in the Pacific Northwest since the 1920’s. During the following 40 years, nearly all trees were harvested from forest lands. Since the 1950’s, the transformation from growing trees in the wild to culturing them on plantations has been dramatic. Today, few trees come from forest lands. An interior strain from the Rocky Mountains (P. menziesii var. glauca) has been extensively planted throughout several midwestern state Christmas tree plantations. It is preferred because of its ability to withstand the more harsh growing conditions than the Pacific Northwest seed sources. Nationally, it remains one of the most popular Christmas trees species. It is shipped to the majority of the states and is also exported to the Hawaiian Islands, Guam and some Asian markets. Plantation trees are normally sheared and will produce a crop within 7 to over 10 years depending upon the site and growing area. Douglas-fir is one of the stronger of the softwoods and is widely used for structural purposes. The sapwood is white to pale yellow while the heartwood is orange-red with high contrast between earlywood and latewood. It is straight grained and moderately hard. It is used widely in construction, laminated timbers, plywood and high grade veneer, interior trim, cabinet work, pallets, boxes, ladders and flooring. It is also one of the more common softwoods used in export markets.
Pinus strobus L.
Description: Beginning with the British colonists, eastern white pine (or white pine) has proven to be one of the most important and most desirable species of North America. It is a truly magnificent tree attaining a height of 80 feet or more at maturity with a diameter of two to three feet. White pine is considered to be the largest pine in the United States. In colonial times, white pines above 24 inches in diameter were reserved for England to be used as ships masts. These trees were identified by blazing a broad arrow on the trunk. Because of the colonists general dislike of British rule, this “broad arrow” policy was one more source of friction between the two. Until about 1890, white pine was considered the species of choice for most commercial uses. It is the state tree of Maine and Michigan. Leaves (needles) are soft, flexible and bluish-green to silver green in color and are regularly arranged in bundles of five. Needles are 2 1/2-5 inches long and are usually shed at the end of the second growing season. Both male and female flowers (strobili) occur on the same tree, with pollination occurring in spring. Cones are 4-8 inches in length, usually slightly curved and mature at the end of the second season. Cone scales are rather thin and never have prickles. Cones also have exudations of a fragrant gummy resin. Bark on young trunks and branches is smooth and tends to be greenish-brown in color. On older trunks, the bark becomes dark gray and shallowly fissured. Limbs tend to persist, particularly on trees grown without severe competition. White pine is intermediate in shade tolerance and is commonly associated with eastern hemlock and various northern hardwoods. It is found on many different sites including dry rocky ridges and wet sphagnum bogs, but best development is on moist sandy loam soils. Extensive logging has destroyed most of the original pine forests, but the species is aggressive in reproducing itself and may be found throughout its original range. Due to its desirability and relative ease of nursery production it has also been a major species for reforestation in the northeastern United States and Canada. White pine is susceptible to white pine blister rust disease, which has alternate hosts of wild currants and gooseberries (Ribes). White pine weevil is the major insect pest, and one which deforms trees by killing the terminal shoots. White pine appears to be more sensitive to pollutants such as, ozone, fluorides and sulfur dioxide than are other species. For Christmas trees, sheared trees are preferred, although some people feel shearing results in trees too dense for larger ornaments. Needle retention is good to excellent. White pine has very little aroma, but, conversely, is reported to result in fewer allergic reactions than do some of the more aromatic species. To produce a 6-foot tree requires 6-8 years on good sites. Range: White pine has a broad geographic range, growing from Newfoundland to Manitoba through the northern United States to northern and eastern Ohio and then southward along the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia and South Carolina. It can be found from sea level in its northern range to 5000 feet in the Appalachian Mountains. Propagation: Most propagation is by seed, although the species grafts quite easily. Considerable variation in rooting ability has been observed. About 70 cultivars have been developed for commercial use. Uses: White pine has historically been one of the most valuable lumber trees. It has soft, light wood which warps and checks less than many other species. The wood is adapted to a variety of uses to include cabinets, interior finish, and carving. Early native-Americans used the inner bark as food, with colonists later using the inner bark as an ingredient in cough remedies. Seeds are eaten by birds such as red crossbills and chickadees. Rabbits may eat the bark of young trees as may porcupines.
Scotch Pine Pinus sylvestris L.
Description: Scotch or Scots pine is an introduced species which has been widely planted for the purpose of producing Christmas trees. It is an extremely hardy species which is adaptable to a wide variety of soils and sites. As a Christmas tree, it is known for its dark green foliage and stiff branches which are well suited for decorating with both light and heavy ornaments. It has excellent needle retention characteristics and holds up well throughout harvest, shipping and display. The needles of Scotch pine are produced in bundles of two. They are variable in length, ranging from slightly over 1-inch for some varieties to nearly 3-inches for others. Color is likewise variable with bright green characteristic of a few varieties to dark green to bluish tones more prominent in others. The undersides of Scotch pine needles are characterized by several prominent rows of white appearing stomatal openings. The bark of upper branches on larger, more mature trees displays a prominent reddish-orange color which is very distinctive and attractive. Large amounts of cones are likewise produced which often persist on the tree from one year to the next. Like most pines two growing seasons are required to produce mature cones. On excellent sites within its native range mature trees may reach a trunk diameter of 30 inches or more and individual trees may exceed 125 feet in height. Range: Scotch pine is native to Europe and Asia. From the British isles and Scandinavian peninsulas through central Europe south to the Mediterranean and east through eastern Siberia, Scotch pine can be found at varying elevations.Scotch pine was introduced to North America by European settlers and has long been cultivated, especially in the eastern United States and Canada. It is adaptable to a wide variety of sites and accordingly, has been widely planted for both Christmas tree and ornamental purposes. Although plantations have been established in the United States for the purpose of producing forest products, the species does not perform as well as in its native habitat. Propagation: Scotch pine is reproduced from seed. More than thirty five different seed sources or varieties are commercially recognized. Seed is obtained by international collectors and marketed through reputable seed dealers. A few seed orchards have been established in the United States from which seed is locally collected. For Christmas tree production purposes seed is usually sown in the spring and the resulting seedlings are allowed to grow for two years in the nursery bed before they are lifted and sold to Christmas tree producers. There has been some research by university personnel to identify and produce genetically improved planting stock, although these efforts have not been totally successful. Uses: In Europe and throughout several countries in Asia, Scotch pine is an important species of high economic value. Forest stands containing Scotch pine are managed to produce pulpwood, poles, and sawlogs from which dimension and finish lumber is produced. Logs from trees of large diameters are processed into veneer and used in manufacturing plywood. The species is also valued as an ornamental and landscape plant and has been widely planted in parks and gardens. As a Christmas tree Scotch pine is probably the most commonly used species in the United States. Because of its ease of planting, generally high planting survival and favorable response to plantation culture it has been widely planted throughout much of the eastern United States and Canada. For several years it was the favorite species of large eastern wholesale growers because of its excellent harvesting and shipping qualities. It is also a preferred species for many choose and cut growers in much of the eastern and central United States. When established in plantations usually 6 to 8 years are required to produce a 7 to 8 foot tree. The tree requires annual shearing, usually beginning the second or third year following planting and continuing on through the year of harvest. Scotch pine is host to a number of insect and disease problems, and continued protection from foliage and stem damaging agents is necessary. The species is not demanding with respect to fertility or moisture and supplemental fertilization or irrigation is not considered necessary. As a Christmas tree Scotch pine is known for its excellent needle retention and good keepability. It resists drying and if permitted to become dry does not drop its needles. When displayed in a water filled container it will remain fresh for the normal 3 to 4 week Christmas season. Like all natural trees it is readily recyclable and has many different uses following the Christmas holidays.
White Spruce Picea glauca (Moench) Voss
Description: White spruce is a medium-sized conifer found in northeastern United States and throughout Canada. It is the state tree of South Dakota. White spruce has a cone-shaped crown, and when grown in the open develops a conical crown which extends nearly to the ground. This habit along with the spreading branches give it a nice appearance for use as an ornamental. Trees often reach 80-140 feet in height and 1.5 to 3 feet in diameter. The oldest white spruce may reach 300 years of age. Leaves (needles) are needle-shaped, and are often somewhat crowded on the upper half of the branchlets. Needles are usually 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, blunt at the tip and green to bluish-green in color. Typically, needles are 4 angled (4-sided) and are present on short twig-like structures on the stem (sterigmata). When crushed, needles have a disagreeable odor, thus, the common name of “skunk spruce” or “cat spruce” is often used by those familiar with the species. The bark is thin, light grayish-brown and is produced in irregular, thin, scaly plates. The species is monecious, meaning both male and female flowers (strobili) are found on the same tree. Pollination occurs in the spring and cones mature in one season. Cones are slender about 1 1/4 to 2 inches long and ripen in early fall. Cones are pale brown at maturity with scales that are thin, flexible, and rounded. Cones usually fall from the tree shortly after seeds are shed. White spruce is tolerant of a considerable amount of shade. Its best growth is on moist, acidic, loamy soils and is often found on stream banks, lake shores and adjacent slopes. The species seldom occurs in pure stands but grows in association with balsam fir, black spruce, eastern hemlock, trembling aspen, and other northern hardwoods. Leaves of white spruce are often infected by rust diseases resulting in premature shedding of needles. The two most important insect pests are spruce budworm and spruce sawfly. As a Christmas tree, white spruce has excellent foliage color, short stiff needles and a good natural shape. Needle retention is better than some of other spruce species. Range: White spruce has one of the largest ranges of any North American conifer. It can be found from Newfoundland to Alaska and southward to the United States in New England and the Lake States. It occurs from sea level to 5600 ft. in elevation. A taxonomic variety of white spruce, densata, can be found in the Black Hills of South Dakota and is often sold commercially as “Black Hills spruce”. The variety albertiana is sold as “western white spruce” or “Alberta white spruce”, although some experts believe it may be a form of densata. A total of over 30 cultivated varieties of white spruce have been identified. Propagation: Most propagation is by seed, although both rooting and grafting has been successful. Vegetative propagation by rooting or grafting has been used to increase the number of plants of rarer forms. Uses: The wood of white spruce is light, soft, and straight grained. Its primary uses have been for pulpwood, lumber, furniture, and boxes and crates. More elegant uses include sounding boards for pianos and violins. The tough, pliable roots were once used by Indians to lace birchbark canoes and to make woven baskets. White spruce is important as a source of food for grouse and seed eating birds. Red squirrels often cut cones as they mature and eat the seeds. Porcupines are considered destructive pests as they often eat the bark, particularly of young trees. Black bears may also strip white spruce bark for the sweet sapwood. Prepared by Dr. Craig R. McKinley, North Carolina State University.