The Most Popular Types of Christmas Trees

A mother and daughter picking a live Christmas Tree.

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Americans buy about 20 million real Christmas trees each holiday season, most at retail lots and Christmas tree farms. Depending on where you live, the kind of evergreen you'll find will vary. In fact, there are dozens of evergreens native to the U.S. Can't decide which one you like best? The trees below are some of the most popular Christmas varieties.

Fraser Fir

Detailed shot of Fraser fir tree needles.

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The Fraser fir is perhaps the most popular variety of Christmas tree because it is hardy enough to survive being cut and shipped across long distances. The Fraser is a native southern fir and grows at elevations above 5,000 feet. The tree has excellent needle retention along with a pleasing piney scent. The Fraser fir was named for Scottish botanist John Fraser, who explored the southern Appalachians in the late 1700s.

Douglas Fir

A Douglas fir Christmas tree farm.

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The Douglas fir is another common variety of Christmas tree found throughout the central and northern U.S. It is not a "true" fir and has its own unique species classification. Unlike those of true firs, the cones of the Douglas fir hang downward. They have a sweet scent when crushed. The tree was named after David Douglas, who studied the tree in the 1800s.

Balsam Fir

Balsam fir needles detail shot.

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The Balsam fir is a beautiful pyramidal tree with short, flat, long-lasting aromatic needles. The Balsam fir and the Fraser fir have many similar characteristics and some botanists consider them extensions of the same species. However, balsams prefer cool climates and are native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada. They have a nice, dark green color and are very fragrant. The Balsam fir was named for the balsam or resin found in blisters on its bark, which was used to treat wounds during the Civil War.

Colorado Blue Spruce

Detailed photo of a Blue Spruce tree.

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The Colorado blue spruce is most familiar to people as an ornamental landscape tree. It has dark green to powdery blue needles and a pyramidal form when young. The Colorado blue spruce is very often sold as a living Christmas tree, which includes an entire root ball and can be planted after the holidays. It's also popular because it rarely sheds its needles indoors. The spruce was chosen in 1978 and planted as the official living White House Christmas tree and is the state tree of both Utah and Colorado.

Scotch Pine

A close up of needles on a Scotch Pine.

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The Scotch pine is one of the most popular Christmas tree species because it rarely sheds its needles and has excellent water retention when cut. The Scotch pine is not native to America; its origins are European. It was first used in reforestation efforts in the New World. The Scotch pine tree has stiff branches and dark green needles that are retained for four weeks. Its aroma is long-lasting and lingers through the entire holiday season.

Eastern Red Cedar

Eastern red cedar close up image.

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The Eastern red cedar is a popular Christmas tree in the southern U.S., where it is a native species. This evergreen isn't a true cedar; it's a member of the juniper family. Unlike some species that must be pruned regularly to maintain the traditional cone shape, the Eastern red cedar comes by its pyramidal crown naturally. The tree's ease of maintenance makes it a favorite at cut-your-own tree farms. Its needles are a dark, shiny green color and sharp and prickly to the touch.

White Spruce

White Spruce needles detailed shot.

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The white spruce is native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada, and one of the most common varieties sold as Christmas trees in that region. Like the Eastern red cedar, the white spruce has a natural conical shape that makes it easy for tree farmers to maintain. It's a common choice for cut-your-own farms. However, some people don't like white spruce trees because they tend to shed their needles, which have an unpleasant odor. On the plus side, the tree's thick branches make it ideal for heavy ornaments.

Eastern White Pine

Eastern Pine Tree cones and needles.

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The Eastern white pine has been valued as a timber tree for centuries, and it is commonly sold in the mid-Atlantic states as a Christmas tree. Because this variety of evergreen has very little scent, it is popular with people who suffer from tree-related allergies. Eastern white pines have excellent needle retention and stout branches to support heavy decorations.

White or Concolor Fir

Needles of a white fir tree detailed shot.

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The White fir, sometimes called the concolor fir, is known for its long, blue-green needles, excellent needle retention, and pleasing pine scent. It's commonly sold as a Christmas tree in California, where it is a native species.

Virginia Pine

Virginia Pine tree with cones and needles

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The Virginia pine is a newcomer to many Christmas tree lots, particularly in the South. This variety was developed as a heat-tolerant alternative to the Scotch pine and has only recently been used as a Christmas tree. The Virginia pine has wide tufts of soft needles ranging from dark green to gray in color. Its limbs are stout with woody branches.