Finding the Perfect Tree
When it comes to live Christmas trees, Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) is the gold standard. This popular native can be found growing wild on the cool moist slopes of the southern Appalachian mountains in southern Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and northern Georgia. Here at elevations between 4500 to 6600 ft., you’ll find Fraser firs growing 30 to 40 ft. high and 20 to 25 ft. wide with that characteristic pyramidal shape.
Domesticated Fraser firs are grown and sold as 6 to 7 ft. high Christmas trees in about 18 counties in the far west section of North Carolina. Although these trees lack heat and drought tolerance and prefer high elevation locations with cool summertime night temperatures, they’re remarkably tough as cut trees.
Unlike Eastern red cedar and Atlantic white cedar which dry out very quickly and lose their needles after they’re cut, Fraser fir loses water slowly and retains its needles for quite some time. Provided that you removed a 1/2 to 1 inch section from the base before putting the tree in a water-filled stand, your tree will absorb water from the cut end and it will be lost from the needles. A Fraser fir will absorb about 1 qt. of water per day per inch of stem diameter. Use plain unadulterated water, and never allow it to dry out. These simple procedures will help your Fraser fir to maintain its good looks for quite some time.
Over the years I’ve seen how the makers of artificial trees have attempted to imitate Fraser firs. While these non-biodegradable trees will never lose their needles, they’ll never copy the look or feel of the soft, beautifully curved blue-green needles or be endowed with the unforgettable fragrance of a Fraser fir: a tree that will always be in my home during the holiday season.