Fraser Fir – December 2015 Tree of the Month

by Ann Farnham, LLA

The Fraser Fir, Abies fraseri, is the Ewing Environmental Commission’s chosen favorite for December. While the Fraser Fir cannot be grown successfully in our state, it seems fitting that we highlight a tree that will be in many of our homes during the holidays.

As the holiday season is now in full swing, many of us are buying Christmas trees, usually pines, spruce or fir. The Fraser Fir, not as easily available as pines or spruce, has strong branches, a very pleasing fragrance, and keeps its needles well throughout the season. The needles are soft and not prickly to tree decorators. Fraser Fir is not a source of commercial timber, as it is grown primarily for its use as a Christmas tree. It has long been a favorite Christmas tree in the White House.

Fraser Fir usually grows to 30 to 40 feet tall, 20 to 25 feet in spread, and has a conical shape. The needles are shiny dark green, sometimes up to 1 inch long, and flat (remember, fir needles are flat and spruce needles are square). The cones are upright and cylindrical, 1.4 to 2.75 inches tall.

This needled, slow-growing evergreen tree is native to the high altitudes of the Southeastern Appalachian Mountains: E. Tennessee, S.W. Virginia, and W. North Carolina, in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 6. It likes full sun, cool summers, a lot of snow, and cold winters, which is why it is not successfully grown in New Jersey. It likes moist, well-drained and acid soils.

The most troublesome pest of the Fraser Fir is the woolly adelgid, a non-native insect which has seriously affected fir and hemlock populations across their native habitats. Fraser Fir is successfully grown on tree farms in our northern states as the farms are able to control the adelgid with sprays and young firs are not as susceptible to the adelgid as mature trees are. Acid rain has also been implicated in the demise of fir populations.

The Ewing Environmental Commission ( welcomes suggestions for the Tree of the Month from all Ewing residents.