Fraser Fir vs Balsam

As the holiday season approaches, many of us are looking for the perfect real Christmas tree. In NH there are 2 types of trees that are most commonly found either at the tree farm or at the near by shop. These 2 types are Fraser Fir and Balsam.

I have over ten years experience dealing with Christmas trees from the retail standpoint and find the most common question to be “what is the difference?” So here is what I have learned.

Fraser Fir on the left, Balsam on the right

Lets start with the Fraser Fir. A Fraser Fir is the slower growing of the 2 varieties. Why does this matter? Simple, Frasers are known for their stronger branches. This is important for people with larger or heavier ornaments. Frasers also have “pointy” needles, meaning the needles point up and feel sharp when you put your hand around it. They are also known for holding their needles better once its been harvested and brought inside. The color of a Fraser can vary from a nice dark green to a blue green color.

The Balsam is a more traditional choice for a Christmas tree, since it naturally grows in this area. Balsams grow faster meaning their branch strength is less than a Fraser, however Balsams are often “fuller”, with more, closer growing branches. Unlike the Fraser, Balsams have “soft” needles. This means that the needles lay flat so when you grab a branch with your hand, it’s not sharp. The fuller, flat look of the Balsams branches and needles makes them ideal for wreaths and other Christmas decorations. Balsams are also deemed to have a stronger scent, than Fraser.

Balsam in front with Fraser Fir in background

Each type comes as big or narrow, tall or short. Some are the perfect shape, while others have a good side and a bad side. Regardless of which variety you deem the best the perfect tree is out there waiting, have fun finding yours.

Submitted by:  Tanya S., MG since 2017

About SCMGA

Strafford County Master Gardeners Association, part of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, is forty+ gardeners strong, educating through gardening in Strafford County New Hampshire.
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