ID that tree

A specimen of Abies fraseri, Fraser Fir, decorated as our Christmas/ Winter Holiday Tree for 2007-2008.
Christmas Tree

A reminder that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has an online guide to identifying the species of your holiday tree.

Most people can tell a Wii from a PS3 in the shop windows at this time of year, but how many can tell whether that’s a Scotch pine or a balsam fir in their living room? Our simplified key will help you identify your holiday tree.
Holiday Tree Identification, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

For example, here are the keys to my annual choice, Abies fraseri, the Fraser Fir:

  • Leaves are needlelike, at least 4 times longer than wide.
  • Needles occur singly, not in clusters.
  • Buds are round or egg-shaped and have blunt tips.
  • Needles are attached directly to the stem.
  • Mature needles are 1/2 to 1 inch long.
  • Twigs have red hairs.

I also learned in my Woody Landscape Plant Identification class that you can quickly tell an Abies (Fir) from a Picea (Spruce) by trying to roll a needle between your fingers. Fir needles are flat and will not roll. Spruce needles are more cylindrical and will easily roll.

Since the guides include all species grown and sold commercially across the United States and Canada, they include some species you’re unlikely to find at your local tree merchant in New York City, such as Cupressus arizonica, the Arizona Cypress. In addition to the online keys, they have a page for each species, and many links to other information about selecting, identifying, and enjoying your tree.

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Holiday Tree Identification, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Long Live the Christmas Tree, 2008.12.04, from neighbor and fellow gardener at New York City Garden

One thought on “ID that tree

  1. Gorgeous tree! Excellent structure for maximal ornament display. I’m always tempted by white pines, but they’re so bushy, the ornaments kind of lay there on the branches instead of dangling. This is, as the guy in “Diner” said, *important* to me!

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