CORVALLIS, Ore. – Although more than 90 percent of Oregon’s 7 million cut Christmas trees are shipped out of state each year, Oregonians have plenty of real-tree choices at retail lots or you-cut farms, or they can cut a tree on public land (with a permit in hand, of course).
Some Oregonians prefer a more open tree than the typical sheared Douglas-fir produced en masse for shipment out of state, said Rick Fletcher, forestry and Christmas tree specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.
"The noble fir has been the most popular and most expensive Christmas tree in our region through time," Fletcher said. Native to the higher elevations in the Cascades and Coast Range, this blue-green tree, with distinctly layered branches is a pleasure to decorate and least likely to shed needles on your living room carpet.
"If you go up in the mountains to look for a noble, you might easily mistake a sub-alpine or Pacific silver fir for the noble,” said Fletcher. "If so, it is fine, although these other firs generally do not retain their needles as well as the nobles."
If you want to be able to tell which species you are cutting, you can order a copy of OSU Extension’s "Trees to Know in Oregon." It is $18 plus shipping and handling. Order a copy online, or call 1-800-561-6719 to order by phone.
Next in popularity is the Douglas-fir, long the standard of the industry, Fletcher said, but many locals feel that these sheared trees look more like a bush than a tree. If left unsheared, however, they grow so fast naturally that they look like the proverbial “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree.
"You will find Douglas-firs nice and fluffy and considerably cheaper,” he said. “If you keep them in water, the needles should stay on the tree for the month of December.”
If you want the smell of Christmas in your house, you might choose a grand fir, Fletcher said. It has dark green needles and a full shape. "Its only drawback is needle retention," he said. "If you wait until early December to cut it and keep it in water, it should hold its needles quite well."
New species now grown in Oregon include Nordmann and Turkish firs. "These species are very popular in Europe, and local growers are discovering their merits and beginning to grow them here also," Fletcher said. "Both have stiff, dark or silvery green foliage and a very nice shape. Their needle retention is excellent if kept in water."
Christmas tree permits are available at Forest Service and BLM District Offices.