Evergreens are a traditional part of the Christmas celebration, and on the North Fork you can find plenty of farms that allow you to down your own.
But while the trees may all look essentially the same to the untrained eye, experts at the National Christmas Tree Association say at least 11 major varieties of Christmas tree grow in the United States, and each one has a distinct set of characteristics.
Whether you’re in the market for a tree with hearty branches that can support heavy ornaments or just want one that won’t shed pine needles all over the floor, local farmers take the guesswork out of choosing the perfect holiday tree.
Here, we take a look at the five most popular varieties available on the North Fork.
About: According to the NCTA, Douglas firs are among the top major Christmas tree species in the country. They have bluish-green needles that release a sweet fragrance when crushed.
“Douglas firs are probably the most popular [because that’s your traditional Christmas tree],” said Shirley Lewin of Lewin’s Christmas Tree Farm in Riverhead.
Pro: This tree’s soft needles are kid- and pet-friendly.
Con: On the flip side, the softness of the needles means Douglas firs are decidedly ill-equipped to support heavy ornaments.
About: This tree’s nice form, firm branches and good needle retention make it the “Cadillac of Christmas trees,” said Jonathan Shipman of Shamrock Christmas Tree Farm in Mattituck.
“They’re a particular favorite of mine,” added Judy Dart of Dart’s Christmas Tree Farm in Southold. “They have three-dimensional needles around the branches that are bluish on the underside.”
Pro: “I like the spacing between the branches,” Ms. Dart said. “Some [varieties] have branches that are very close together and I don’t feel that you can really get a lot of ornaments on them or that they show very well. [Fraser firs] have nice spacing between the branches, and ornaments show very well on them.”
Con: Depending on the farm’s location and soil, Fraser firs can be difficult to grow.
“We seem to have gotten lucky and have been able to grow a really nice crop of them over the years, but sometimes they can be a little tricky, and we’ve had some die on us,” Ms. Dart said.
About: A relative newcomer to the Christmas tree market, these trees “kind of look like a Fraser fir,” said Mr. Shipman. “A lot of people can’t tell the difference.”
Pro: Like Fraser firs, Canaans boast good needle retention and look beautiful when decorated.
Con: The needle retention is not as good as that of Fraser firs, according to Mr. Shipman.
About: Native to northern central Europe, Norway spruces have shiny green needles and withstand chilly temperatures well.
If you opt for a Norway spruce this holiday season, you’re in good company: A 76-foot, 75-year-old Norway spruce has been chosen as this year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
Pro: “It grows great on Long Island,” Mr. Shipman said. The Norway spruce’s stiff branches are also ideal for hanging lights.
Con: This tree’s prickly branches can make hanging ornaments an actual pain.
About: This variety of tree features dark green, silver-tinged foliage and an aesthetically pleasing triangular shape.
Pro: According to the NCTA, white spruces have the best needle retention among spruces, so they’ll hold ornaments well and won’t shed as much as other varieties. Plus, “They grow well on Long Island,” Mr. Shipman said.
Con: This variety’s sharp, rigid needles have the potential to prick unsuspecting fingertips.