Fraser Fir – Abies fraseri

Tree of the Week

12th December 2019 | Info

Common name: Fraser Fir

Scientific name: Abies fraseri

Introduction: Fraser Fir are a non-UK native evergreen species that are commonly used as Christmas trees. Fraser Fir originates from the Appalachian Mountains of Southeastern USA and has a vigorous growth rate.


Leaves: Fraser Fir trees have a dense yet soft foliage of dark-green/silver and glossy needle-like leaves. These form on branches that point slightly-upwards, giving them a more compact appearance. Fraser Firs are also known for retaining their leaves well and for having a strong balsam scent. 

Buds: Fraser Firs tend to develop with fewer buds than other species. 

Bark: Grey to grey-brown in colour. Younger trees typically have a thin and smooth bark besides having resin-filled blisters. As a Fraser Fir matures, its bark then develops thin and papery scales.

Form: Narrow and pyramidal in shape. However, due to the formation of branches, then can appear to have a more compact appearance.


Fraser Firs are monoecious, meaning they have both male and female flowers on the same tree. Typically, flowers form between May and June and are wind-pollinated before forming into cones within the same seasons. The cones of a Fraser Fir have long, curved bracts which hang longer than their scales, giving the appearance that they are bent over. Once these cones have developed, they then fall apart (typically between September and November), leaving behind a central core.

Growth Habit:

Aggressive growth rate (fast).

Interesting Facts:

Fraser Firs are one of America’s favourite Christmas Tree species and are often used in the White House. Despite this, however, Fraser Firs are considered to be an endangered species. Fraser Firs are occasionally referred to as ‘She-Balsam’ due to the resin-filled blisters on their bark.

Ecological Importance:

They provide a habitat for spruce-fir moss spiders, and red squirrels like to feed on their seeds.

Properties of Fraser Fir Wood and its Uses:

Soft and relatively brittle. It is often favoured for use as pulpwood, interior panelling and crates. The boughs of the tree are also known to be used for bed-stuffing.

Styling of Fraser Fir/Where to Find Them:

Fraser Firs are grown in plantations in Scotland as they are a popular choice of Christmas Tree.

Associated Pests and Diseases:

Phytophthora has been known to affect Fraser Firs, especially those that grow on lower-ground. Fraser Firs can also be affected by Balsam Wooly Aphids.


Pruning and Pruning Qualities: Fraser Firs have a vigorous growth rate, meaning they often require careful shearing or pruning to help maintain the shape and texture of the tree. Shearing especially helps to keep the conical shape of a Fraser Fir as well as helping to optimise natural branching and helping with growth regulation. Many steps go into shearing a Fraser Fir, including choosing the best or true leaders, cutting lateral branches and working the sides. Shearing of a Fraser Fir should be carried out between July and early August as this helps maximise growth and coincides with the time of year that branches are less likely to receive bird damage as leaders have hardened and are less likely to break. Occasionally, corrective pruning may be required if problems arise after shearing. Because shearing methods often leave behind ‘cuts’ which may harm your tree, we recommend you contact you local tress surgeon who will be able to carry out the work for you in a way that best maintains your tree. You can find your local tree surgeon here

Growth Rate after Pruning: Shearing can help to maximise new growth and maintain the attractive shape of the tree.

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