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Fraser Fir
Abies fraseri
In many respects, Fraser fir and balsam fir are quite similar,
although the geographic ranges of the two species do not
overlap. Some scientists even suggest that because of the
many similarities, the two species were once a single species
which has since evolved into the present-day forms.

Fraser fir was named for John Fraser (1750-1811), a Scot
botanist who explored the southern Appalachian Mountains
in the late 18th century. The species is sometimes called
Southern balsam or Southern balsam fir. Locally Fraser fir
is known as "She balsam" because of the resin filled blisters
on the tree's trunk. Red spruce, often associated with Fraser
fir, is called "He balsam" and lacks the distinctive blisters.

Fraser fir is a uniformly pyramid-shaped tree which reaches a
maximum height of about 80 feet and a diameter of 1-1.5 feet.
Strong branches are turned slightly upward which gives the
tree a compact appearance.

Leaves (needles) are flattened, dark-green with a medial
groove on the upper side and two broad silvery-white bands
on the lower surface. These bands consist of several rows
of stomata (pores). Leaves are 1/2 to one inch long, have a
broad circular base, and are usually dark green on the upper
surface and lighter on the lower surface. On lower branches,
leaves are two-ranked (occurring in two opposite rows). On
upper twigs, leaves tend to curl upward forming a more
"U-shaped" appearance.

Fraser fir is monecious meaning that both male and female
flowers (strobili) occur on the same tree. Flowers are receptive
in May to June depending on elevation and other environmental
conditions. The species is wind pollinated, and cones mature in
a single season. At maturity, cones are 2-2 1/2 inches long with
bracts longer than the scales and appearing reflexed (bent over).
The presence of these visible cone bracts is a distinguishing
feature of Fraser fir as compared to balsam fir. Upon ripening in
September to November, cones fall apart leaving an erect central
core. Red squirrels are the primary consumers of seeds.

Bark is usually gray or gray-brown, thin, smooth with numerous
resin blisters on young trees. As trees become older, the bark
tends to develop into thin, papery scales.

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Fraser Fir Photo

The combination of form, needle
retention, dark blue-green color,
pleasant scent and excellent
shipping characteristics has
led to Fraser fir being a most
popular Christmas tree species.
It requires from 7 to 10 years
in the field to produce a 6-7
feet tree.

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