One of the most magical parts of Christmas is the Christmas tree. An annual winter staple in many homes, the Christmas tree is adorned with ornaments, garlands, and lights of all kinds to create a dazzling display that inspires joy and excitement for the holidays.
There are many options when it comes to Christmas trees. You can go artificial or real, and if you choose real, you’ll then have to decide what species of tree to take home.
So, balsam fir vs Fraser fir – which is the best Christmas tree? Each of these trees is perfect for Christmas. The balsam fir is ideal for those who want a strong Christmas tree scent and don’t have a lot of heavy ornaments. The Fraser fir is perfect for those who are sensitive to smells and need stronger branches to hang their all their ornaments.
There are other factors to consider when choosing your Christmas tree as well, such as the height, shape, and color. In this article, we’ll review all the details of balsam fir and Fraser fir trees to help you pick the best one for your next Christmas.
Tips For Buying A Fresh Christmas Tree
Before you go hunting for that perfect Christmas tree, it’s important that you know how to spot a fresh one. If you go to a Christmas tree farm, you won’t have to worry about freshness. Sometimes farms will even let you cut down your own tree.
Getting your Christmas tree from a farm will limit the species available to you, since you’ll only find tree species that grow well in your area. However, it’s a fair exchange for guaranteeing a fresh tree that won’t start drying out before you even make it to Christmas morning.
Your other option for getting a live tree is to go to a Christmas tree lot or other local store that has Christmas trees pre-cut and waiting in a parking lot. If you go to the lot for your Christmas tree, you might have more variety, but freshness isn’t guaranteed.
To check the freshness of your selected tree, grab a few branches and shake the tree a little bit. Keep an eye on how many needles fall off.
If a lot of needles fall off, then the tree was cut quite a while ago and has not been sufficiently watered. Try another tree that has less needles falling off.
Our first contender in the Christmas Tree Showdown is the balsam fir. Balsam firs are native to the northeast area of North America, including some of the northern United States and territories in Canada.
This tree is the most common species used for Christmas trees because of its dark green color, classic scent, and perfect shape.
Check out the video below to see a live balsam fir tree and get a quick overview of some of the highlights of this tree.
Balsam firs can grow anywhere between 40-60 feet tall in the wild. Of course, most people aren’t going to fit a 40-foot tree in their home.
Instead, the trees you find at a Christmas tree farm or lot will usually be anywhere from 3-10 feet tall. This is the average height range used for Christmas trees in American homes.
Since firs can grow up to 60 feet, you can rest assured that you will be able to easily find one in the average height range – or even higher if you have vaulted ceilings and want to make a statement.
Balsam firs have a full, classic, conical shape that you’re used to seeing on a Christmas tree. They’re wide at the bottom and taper off to a thinner top until you reach the lone top branch.
The branches on a balsam fir grow pretty close together, so the tree has a dense shape with plenty of branches and needles. This is ideal for people who don’t like to see holes in their Christmas trees, and prefer to have a thick, full Christmas tree.
They can vary in proportionality. Some trees will be overall thinner, while still retaining the classic conical shape, and some trees will be much wider overall.
Balsam firs grow quickly, making them an ideal tree for Christmas tree farmers to grow since they can produce more trees in a shorter period of time.
However, this fast growing speed also means that the strength of the tree is lower. The branches won’t grow as sturdy. If you’re someone who doesn’t use too many ornaments, and the ornaments you do use are light, then balsam firs are perfect for you.
The branches can’t sustain lots of heavy ornaments, but it will do just fine with light ornaments and strings of lights and garland. Along the branches are the needles, of course.
The needles of a balsam fir are generally soft, thin needles that are a little rounded at the tip. This makes them a favorite for families with small children or animals who may get poked or scratched by the sharper needles of other trees.
Balsam fir needles also lay flat on the branch. They grow in two lines along the sides of the branch, laying flat, which makes the branches easier to work with and easier to hang ornaments from.
Balsam fir trees have a very strong scent, which is one of the reasons they’re so popular.
The sweet, yet spicy, fragrance of a Christmas tree is what draws people in and makes them really feel like Christmas time has arrived.
The scent is so beloved that many candle and fragrance companies have created candles, lotions, and other body care products to imitate the scent.
If you’re looking for a strong, heavy Christmas tree scent with your tree, then a balsam fir is the way to go.
However, this scent can be too heavy for those who are very sensitive to smells or have allergic reactions to certain scents. This is something to consider when shopping for a Christmas tree.
If you or a loved one has had a negative reaction to a strong-scented Christmas tree, it may be best to try another species (such as the Fraser fir, which we’ll explore below).
Balsam fir trees are the classic dark green you’re used to seeing on a traditional Christmas tree. They have a bit of a silver accent from the way the bottom of the needles look, but overall have a very rich, dark green color.
This color can seem boring to some people who want something a little different, but it’s the classic color of Christmas and is well-loved by many.
Switching gears now, let’s explore the world of Fraser fir trees! Fraser firs are native to the southeast region of the United States, specifically in the Appalachian Mountain area round the higher altitudes.
They are another classic choice when it comes to Christmas trees. They have a dynamic color variety that ranges from dark green to blue green, a mild scent for smell-sensitive people, and the classic Christmas tree conical shape.
Before we review the details of Fraser firs to see how they compare to balsam firs, check out the video below. You’ll be able to see a live Fraser fir and get a quick overview of the highlights of this tree species.
In the wild, Fraser fir trees can grow to be up to 50 feet tall. They grow slower than balsam fir trees, but can reach similar heights. Just as with balsam fir trees, you won’t see any 50-foot Fraser firs on sale at a Christmas tree lot or farm.
Instead, you’ll find young Fraser trees that grew to be anywhere from 3-10 feet tall, the average height range for Christmas trees in American homes.
Fraser firs, like balsam firs, have the classic conical shape you’re used to seeing on Christmas trees. They start wide at the bottom and taper off to a thinner top.
The main difference in the shape of a Fraser fir when compared to a balsam fir lies in the branch density. Fraser firs have space between branches, so they look less full compared to balsam firs.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It doesn’t make them look like someone cut out random chunks of branches sporadically. It simply gives the tree a little room to breath and gives you more space to decorate it with ornaments, garland, and lights.
Speaking of branches and ornaments, the great thing about Fraser fir trees is that they have strong branches.
Thanks to their slower growing speed, Fraser firs grow to be much more sturdy and stable. Their branches are capable of holding those heavier ornaments, like the handmade handprints made with clay.
The branches are covered in needles that are still soft, but a little pointier at the end compared to balsam fir trees. The needles of a Fraser fir are also a little shorter than the needles on a balsam fir.
The good thing, though, is that Fraser fir trees grow much more needles than a balsam fir. Rather than the needles being in two rows along the edges of the branch, the needles of a Fraser fir grow in a spiral all the way around the branch.
This helps Fraser fir trees look more dense even though they have more space between branches. The best thing about the needles of a Fraser fir is that they stay better on the tree.
Everyone who’s bought a live tree knows the headache of the needles all over the floor underneath and around the tree. Hundreds of needles fall off just while you’re putting the tree in place – that’s before it’s even had time to sit there for the Christmas season!
You won’t have this problem with Fraser fir trees. They retain their needles much better in comparison to other species. While it’s normal to expect some needle shed, the mess will be less with a Fraser fir tree.
Another advantage of a Fraser fir is that for people with sensitive respiratory systems, heavy scents can cause breathing issues. People with asthma may even suffer asthma attacks depending on their specific triggers and the severity of their asthma.
To avoid this, you can try getting a Fraser fir. Fraser fir trees have a very mild scent. You can still enjoy that sweet, sharp smell of a classic Christmas tree, but without being overwhelmed by it.
It creates a light ambient fragrance that has a small radius unless you get right up on the tree. If you have it in a large, open room, you likely won’t even smell it at all unless you’re standing right next to it.
One of the things that draws people to Fraser fir trees in the first place is their dynamic range of colors. Fraser firs can be anywhere from dark green like a balsam fir to blue green, and anywhere in the middle.
They also have a silver accent thanks to the bottom of the needles on their branches, but the overall color will be somewhere along the dark green to blue green spectrum.
Many people are used to seeing the blue green version of Fraser firs, which are the most popular for those who buy this type of tree.
However, if you want a classic looking Christmas tree but can’t handle the thick scent of the balsam fir, you can still find a Fraser fir in the traditional dark green color.
Balsam Fir Vs Fraser Fir: Summary
Now that we’ve reviewed the characteristics of each type of tree, it’s type to directly compare and contrast them to see which one is the clear winner.
The table below provides a recap of the details we’ve just discussed:
|Characteristic||Balsam Fir||Fraser Fir|
|Region||Northeast North America||Southeast United States|
|Height||40-60 feet tall||Up to 50 ft tall|
|Shape||Full, conical shape with dense branches||Conical shape with spaces between branches|
|Needles||Thin, soft, rounded needles that grow in two lines along the branches||Stiff, slightly pointy needles that grow in a spiral around the branches|
|Sturdiness||Weak branches due to fast growing speed||Sturdy branches due to slower growing speed|
|Scent||Strong, thick fragrance of classic Christmas tree scent – sweet and a little spicy/bitter||More mild scent, but still classic Christmas tree fragrance|
|Color||Dark green with silver accents||Varies in color from dark green to blue green with silver accents|
So which one is the winner? Well, it depends on your preference!
Fraser firs are ideal for people who are sensitive to thick smells, or people who have a lot of heavy ornaments – or just a lot of ornaments in general! Their mild scent makes them easy to use in most homes regardless of respiratory sensitives.
Their strong, sturdy branches make them ideal for people who have a lot of ornaments collected over the years, or even a small collection made up of heavy elements.
They still capture that classic Christmas tree look everyone goes for, so you don’t have to worry about compromising the look for the scent or functionality.
Balsam firs are ideal for people who are looking for that strong Christmas tree scent in their home and want a classic look, but don’t have many ornaments. If you use a generic pack of bulb ornaments from the store with a string of garland and lights, you’ll do just fine with a balsam fir.
At the end of the day, there is no one correct winner. Both of these trees are excellent contenders, and would do great for a Christmas tree!
The most important thing to remember is to water them properly. As long as you keep them watered, you can’t go wrong!
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