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Best picks for Christmas trees

Published: Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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Pining to get this year’s Christmas tree?

“Having a little knowledge about Christmas tree varieties will make your quest for the ‘perfect’ tree an easy one,” University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Ron Wolford Said in a news release.

Wolford provided the following descriptions of popular Christmas tree varieties:

Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) – short, flat, long-lasting needles that are rounded at the tip and are 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches long; nice, dark green color with silvery cast and fragrant. Named for the balsam or resin found in blisters on bark.

Canaan fir (Abies balsamea var.phanerolepis) – soft, short, bluish to dark green needles, 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches long, needles silver on underside. Strong branches and open growing pattern. Good needle retention and fragrance.

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) – good fragrance; holds blue to dark green; 1- to 1-1/2-inch needles; needles have one of the best aromas among Christmas trees when crushed; branches are spreading and drooping. After being cut, the Douglas fir will last three to four weeks.

Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) – dark green, flattened needles that are 1/2 to 1 inch long; good needle retention; nice scent; pyramid-shaped, strong branches that turn upward.

Grand fir (Adies grandis) – shiny, dark green needles about 1 to 1-1/2 inches long; the needles when crushed, give off a citrusy smell. Will last three to four weeks after being cut.

Noble fir (Abies procera) – 1-inch-long needles, bluish green with a silvery appearance; has short, stiff branches; great for heavier ornaments; keeps well; used to make wreaths, door swags and garland. With good care, the tree will last for six weeks after being cut.

Concolor fir (Abies concolor) – blue-green needles are 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches long; nice shape and good aroma, a citrus scent; good needle retention.

Austrian fir (Pinus nigra) – dark green needles, 4 to 6 inches long; retains needles well; moderate fragrance.

Red pine (Pinus resinosa ) – dark green, 4- to 6-inch-long needles; big and bushy.

Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) – most common Christmas tree; stiff branches hold heavy ornaments well; stiff, dark green, 1-inch long needles; holds needles for four weeks; needles will stay on even when dry; has open appearance and more room for ornaments; will support heavy ornaments; keeps aroma throughout the season.

Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) – dark green needles are 1-1/2 to 3 inches long in twisted pairs; strong branches enabling it to hold heavy ornaments; strong aromatic pine scent; a popular southern Christmas tree.

White pine (Pinus strobus) – soft, blue-green needles, 2- to 5-inch-long needles in bundles of five; retains needles throughout the holiday season; very full appearance; little or no fragrance; less allergic reactions as compared to more fragrant trees; doesn’t hold heavy ornaments well.

Blue spruce (Picea pungens) – dark green to powdery blue; very stiff needles, 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches long; good form; will drop needles in a warm room; symmetrical, but best among species for needle retention; branches are stiff and will support many heavy decorations.

Norway spruce (Picea abies) – needles 1/2 to 1 inch long; shiny, dark green. Needle retention is poor without proper care; strong fragrance; nice conical shape.

White spruce (Picea glauca) – needles 1/2 to 3/4 inch long; green to bluish green, short, stiff needles; crushed needles have an unpleasant odor; good needle retention, holds ornaments well.

Leyland cypress (Cupressus x leylandii) – dark green in color, no aroma, has a good shape, will not support large ornaments, very popular in the southeast United States.

“Whatever variety of Christmas tree you choose for your home, proper watering and keeping your house as moist and cool as possible will help lengthen enjoyment of your tree and safety,” Wolford said in the release.

For more information, visit the “Christmas Trees and More” website at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/trees/.

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