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For most people, choosing the Christmas tree signals the official start of the Christmas season. During the Christmas season, growers estimate that over 33 million trees, mostly grown on plantations, will be sold this year. Look for a durable tree when making your selection. Some species last longer and are safer to keep indoors. Pines are usually the most durable, firs are next and spruces are the least durable. Scotch pine is one of the most durable and popular trees. It has short, stiff, twisted needles. Sheared Scotch pines are very bushy and dense without open spaces between the branches. The color is generally bright green, although some farms dye the tree a darker green. Its ability to hold its needles makes it a favorite for early decoration. Ponderosa pine is a native tree in many areas of the west. It has long, green needles and is a very open tree so it is usually not sheared nor grown in plantations. Pinyon pines are usually cut from native stands in mountainous areas in the Great Basin. Pinyon pines are fragrant and very bushy. They are blue-green in color and last quite well. They are harvested from native stands, and are much older than plantation grown trees. Firs are also popular Christmas trees. They are open trees with a perfectly tiered pyramidal symmetry. Frazer fir is a common plantation grown fir with an aromatic scent. It has short, flat needles that are bright green on top with silvery undersides. White fir is cut from native stands or is a plantation-grown tree. It is a common fir in our mountain areas and has a beautiful, symmetrical shape. Noble fir is an attractive tree with short, stiff branches that make it ideal for hanging ornaments. The short needles turn upward on the upper surfaces of the twig. Douglas fir is the most commonly available tree in our area, although it is not a true fir. It is native to the Western United States and Canada and develops an open, unsymmetrical shape unless sheared. When sheared the trees become bushy and dense with bright green needles 1-1½ inches long. The branches are quite flexible, so avoid heavy ornaments that pull them down. Spruces are very common landscape trees in our area, but spruces should not be used as cut trees if they are going to be kept indoors for long periods of time. Colorado blue spruce is a beautiful native tree with silver blue needles 1-1½ inches long. Spruces make better living Christmas trees than cut trees. In addition to the Colorado blue spruce, Norway spruce and Engelmann spruce are sometimes sold. Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticulturist Utah State University Thanksgiving Point Office