Christmas trees can be any of several conifers. The main thing to note is that the names 'spruce', 'fir', and 'pine' are subgroups of conifers, so these names cannot be mixed.
The following Christmas Tree species or types are sold and grown in the United States:
Deodara Cedar – Cedrus deodara – short, bluish-green needles; branches become pendulous at the tips; native to Himalayas; Deodara wood in Asia was used to build temples. In ancient Egypt Dedodara wood was used to make coffins for mummies.
Eastern Red Cedar – Junirperus viginiana – leaves are a dark, shiny, green color; sticky to the touch; good scent; can dry out quickly; may last just 2-3 weeks; a southern Christmas tree.
Leland Cypress – Cupress ocyparis leylandii – foliage is dark green to gray color; has upright branches with a feathery appearance; has a light scent; good for people with allergies to other Christmas tree types. One of the most sought after Christmas trees in the Southeastern United States.
Balsam Fir – Abies balsamea – ¾” to 1 ½” short, flat, long lasting needles that are rounded at the tip; nice, dark green color with silvery cast and fragrant. Named for the balsam or resin found in blisters on bark. Resin is used to make microscope slides and was sold like chewing gum; used to treat wounds in Civil War.
Douglas Fir – Pseudotsuga menziesii – good fragrance; holds blue to dark green; 1” to 1 ½” needles; needles have one of the best aromas among Christmas trees when crushed. Named after David Douglas who studied the tree in the 1800’s; good conical shape; can live for a thousand years.
Fraser Fir – Abies fraseri – dark green, flattened needles; ½ to 1 inch long; good needle retention; nice scent; pyramid-shaped strong branches which turn upward. Named for a botanist, John Fraser, who explored the southern Appalachians in the late 1700’s.
Grand Fir – Adies grandis – shiny, dark green needles about 1” – 1 1/2 “ long; the needles when crushed, give off a citrusy smell.
Noble Fir – Abies procera – one inch long, bluish-green needles with a silvery appearance; has short, stiff branches; great for heavier ornaments; keeps well; is used to make wreaths, door swags and garland.
Nordmann Fir - Abies nordmannia – dark green, flattened needles, shiny, silvery-blue below, ¾ to 11/2 inches long. Popular in the United Kingdom.
White Fir or Concolor Fir – Abies concolor – blue-green needles are ½ to ½ inches long; nice shape and good aroma, a citrus scent; good needle retention. In nature can live to 350 years.
Afghan Pine – Pinus oldarica – soft, short needles with sturdy branches; open appearance; mild fragrance; keeps well; grown in Texas; native to Afghanistan, Russia & Paskistan
Austrian Pine – Pinus nigra – dark green needles, 4 to 6 inches long; retains needles well; moderate fragrance.
Red Pine – Pinus resinosa – dark green needles 4”-6” long; big and bushy.
Ponderosa Pine – Pinus ponderosa – needles lighter colored than Austrian Pine; good needle retention; needles 5” – 10” long.
Scotch Pine – Pinus sylvestris – most common Christmas tree; stiff branches; stiff, dark green needles one inch long; holds needles for four weeks; needles will stay on even when dry; has open appearance and more room for ornaments; keeps aroma throughout the season; introduced into United States by European settlers.
Virginia Pine – Pinus virginiana – dark green needles are 1 ½” – 3” long in twisted pairs; strong branches enabling it to hold heavy ornaments; strong aromatic pine scent; a popular southern Christmas tree.
White Pine – Pinus strobus – soft, blue-green needles, 2 to 5 inches long in bundles of five; retains needles throughout the holiday season; very full appearance; little or no fragrance; less allergic reactions as compared to more fragrant trees. Largest pine in United States; state tree of Michigan & Maine; slender branches will support fewer and smaller decorations as compared to Scotch pine. It’s wood is used in cabinets, interior finish and carving. Native Americans used the inner bark as food. Early colonists used the inner bark to make cough medicine.
Carolina Sapphire - Cupressus arizonica var. glabra – ‘Carolina Sapphire’- steely, blue needles; dense, lacy foliage; yellow flowers and nice scent; smells like a cross between lemon and mint.
Black Hills Spruce - Pinus glauca var.densata – green to blue-green needles; 1/3” to ¼” long; stiff needles may be difficult to handle for small children.
Blue Spruce – Picea pungens – dark green to powdery blue; very stiff needles, ¾” to 1 ½” long; good form; will drop needles in a warm room; symmetrical; but is best among species for needle retention; branches are stiff and will support many heavy decorations. State tree of Utah & Colorado. Can live in nature 600-800 years.
Norway Spruce – Picea abies – needles ½” – 1” long and shiny, dark green. Needle retention is poor without proper care; strong fragrance; nice conical shape. Very popular in Europe.
White Spruce – Picea glauca – needles ½ to ¾ inch long; green to bluish-green, short, stiff needles; crushed needles have an unpleasant odor; good needle retention. State tree of South Dakota.