BRUNS plant of the month – December

Abies - Fir / Picea - Spruce

Botany for the Christmas Tree

That time of year is now approaching once again when millions of millions of conifers move into festively decorated living rooms for a few days or weeks. It’s a great opportunity to get to the bottom of the Christmas tree phenomenon.

Approximately 24 million Christmas trees are put up each year in living rooms in Germany. The Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana) gets the biggest slice of the Christmas cake (about 75%). This is followed by the Colorado spruce (Picea pungens) with a share of about 15%. Far behind are other conifer species such as the Norway spruce (Picea abies), noble fir (Abies procera 'Glauca'), the Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. Caesia) and every now and then sometimes a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

Christmas trees are harvested in living room size after a growth period of 8 to 14 years. Much of the trees comes from domestic production with the Sauerland being the most important growing region. There are some Christmas tree plantations also in Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate. It is a joyous activity to go with the entire family to choose a Christmas directly from the producers and bring home a fresh tree.

But now for the favourites, the Nordmann fir. The mountain forests of the Western Caucasus are its natural range. Here, the stately trees can easily reach a height of 30 m. The oldest specimens in their natural habitat are even up to 60 m high and 500 years old. The long, relatively wide needles with their bright deep green colour very decorative. Due to their size, they are more suitable for designing large gardens or parks. They offer 2 important advantages in the living room: they do not have prickly needles and survive the time in the warm indoors without losing their needles.

The Colorado spruce, Picea pungens, is at home in the mountainous areas of the Rocky Mountains. Here, it grows at altitudes of up to 3300 metres and can reach a size of 40 to 50 m. Their needles are bluish-green, very rigid and prickly. Especially popular is a seed-propagated variety with intense steel blue needles, the blue spruce, Picea pungens 'Glauca'. With a height of 15 to 20 m, it grows much tamer than the species and is thus easier to integrate in gardens. The Colorado spruce and blue spruce score as an ideal Christmas tree due to their even, tiered growth and intense pine scent. Their strong, stable branches are also suitable for heavy Christmas tree ornaments.