The Fraser Fir is a beautiful evergreen tree that is native to the southern Appalachian Mountains. It has an attractive, narrow, conical form and short, glossy, dark green leaves. It is one of the most popular Christmas trees in North America and Europe, due to its shapely form, its lovely scent and its soft needles, which are not prickly. It is named after the Scottish botanist John Frasier, who discovered it and introduced it to Great Britain in the early 1800’s.
Abies fraseri is native to a very small area of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee extending into the southwestern corners of Virginia and West Virginia. It is typically found at elevations ranging from 4500’ to 6900’. It is the only fir that is indigenous to the Great Smoky Mountains. Although rare in nature, Fraser fir is one of the most popular Christmas trees sold in commerce today, and is commonly grown in tree farms for that purpose. This is a narrow, pyramidal, evergreen conifer with a spire-like crown. It grows to 30-50’ tall over time with a spread of 10-25’. It is very similar to balsam fir (Abies balsamea), the primary difference being in the bracts of the cone scales. Flattened, shiny, dark green needles (to 1” long) are white-banded beneath. Needles are densely borne on resinous stems. Resin blisters may appear on the bark, giving rise to a regional common name of she-balsam for this tree. Seed cones are purple with conspicuously protruding bracts. As is distinctive with the firs, the cones appear upright on the branches.
Best grown in rich, moist, slightly acidic, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun. Trees grow poorly in heavy clay soils. Trees are native to cool, often foggy, mountain climates, and are not recommended for planting in the hot and humid summer conditions south of USDA Zone 7. Garden Uses.
Specimen fir for the landscape. Ornamental yard tree. Hardy in zones 4-7.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year.
- Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours.
- Put the mixture in a ziplock bag.
- Put the bag in the refrigerator and leave it there for 6-8 weeks.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot.
- Sow the seeds on the soil.
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the soil so that it is moist but not wet. The seeds germinate in a few weeks.
- When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.