Christmas trees living large: A photo tour in Secrest Arboretum


WOOSTER, Ohio—Hundreds of pine, fir, and spruce trees, all decked in holiday green, grow tall in northeast Ohio’s Secrest Arboretum.

See 18 examples in the photographs below—and then see those trees and more in person by taking a hopefully not too wintry walk there. Included are the 18 trees’ GPS locations.

Visiting the arboretum, which is at 1680 Madison Ave. in Wooster, is free and open to the public seven days a week, dawn to dusk.

The 110-acre facility is part of the Wooster campus of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Tree types grown as Christmas trees can also be grown in the landscape, said Paul Snyder, the arboretum’s program coordinator.

“As a general rule, all of the trees listed below do well in Ohio,” Snyder said. “But none of them tolerate wet soils or full shade.”

Canaan fir

Canaan fir grows to be a medium-sized tree 40–50 feet tall with a dense spire shape and dark green needles. Native to West Virginia and Virginia, it’s well suited to Ohio’s climate, Snyder said. It has the added benefit of being able to tolerate wetter soils than most other firs.

The specimen shown here is Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis. Based on it having an 11-inch-diameter trunk, it provides $69 a year in services to the landscape ( and removes 204 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a help in fighting climate change, according to the National Tree Benefit Calculator at

Fraser fir

Native to the Appalachian Mountains, Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) grows well in Ohio but doesn’t like too much heat, Snyder said. It has dark green needles, makes an excellent landscape tree, and does best in sun or partial sun in moist, well-drained soils.

Balsam fir

Famous for its scent, balsam fir (Abies balsamea) is one of the most cold hardy of America’s native firs, Snyder said. It’s hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 3, which is north of Ohio and includes far northern Maine and Minnesota. Plant it in full sun in moist, well-drained soil.

Concolor fir

Concolor fir (Abies concolor) is native to the western United States. Its blue-green needles have a citrusy smell. It makes an excellent landscape plant, reaching 30–50 feet tall and 15–20 feet wide, with a slow to medium growth rate. Concolor fir also withstands heat, drought, and cold well. The cultivar called Candicans has needles the same color as those of a blue spruce.

Douglas fir

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) isn’t a true fir but has similar-looking needles. It needs protection from winter winds and isn’t a good choice for a windbreak, Snyder said. But it makes an excellent specimen tree and Christmas tree.

Korean fir

Korean fir (Abies koreana) is little known in the landscape trade, but its beauty rivals our native firs, Snyder said. It grows well in Ohio, forms a tight pyramidal shape, and is perfect as a landscape specimen, he said. Korean fir’s green needles have a silver-white underside that shows when the tree is seen from different angles.

Serbian spruce

Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) is “my top pick out of all the spruce trees listed here,” Snyder said. “It’s the most graceful of them all and, unlike the others, isn’t overplanted.” It has glossy dark-green needles with silver undersides, forms a tight pyramid shape, and sometimes gets spire-like with age. It has a medium growth rate and reaches 50–60 feet tall.

“[Plant expert and author] Michael Dirr calls Serbian spruce one of the most adaptable spruces,” Snyder said.

White spruce

White spruce (Picea glauca) forms a dense pyramid when young and grows more upright with age. It reaches 40–60 feet in height and has a medium growth rate. It’s native to the northern United States and southern Canada, and its blue-green needles hold up well in Ohio’s climate, Snyder said.

“White spruce also produces an abundance of small cones each year that are quite ornamental,” he said.

Annual landscape benefits based on the specimen’s 12-inch-diameter trunk: $79 ( Annual CO2 removal: 234 pounds.

Norway spruce

Norway spruce (Picea abies) makes a short-lived Christmas tree—its needles fall soon after cutting. “But it grows very well in Ohio and is found on almost every old farmstead,” Snyder said. Norway spruce grows quickly to heights of 40–60 feet and does best in full sun in moist, well-drained, acidic soils. It needs lots of room and isn’t a good choice for the average home landscape.

Annual landscape benefits based on the specimen’s 27-inch-diameter trunk: $204 ( Annual CO2 removal: 526 pounds.

Colorado blue spruce

Colorado blue spruce is a slow-growing tree that’s native to the southwestern United States. It has attractive blue-green foliage but tends to be overplanted in the landscape, Snyder said.

The relatively young specimen shown here is Picea pungens var. glauca. Annual landscape benefits based on its 2-inch-diameter trunk: $12 ( Annual CO2 removal: 20 pounds.

Red pine

Sporting long, 5- to 6-inch needles, red pine (Pinus resinosa) is native to eastern parts of the United States and Canada. It’s a large tree, reaching 50–80 feet in height, and isn’t suited to small yards, Snyder said. Red pine doesn’t tolerate winds well but can grow on dry, acidic, sandy, or gravelly soils.

Annual value of landscape benefits based on the specimen’s 20-inch-diameter trunk: $161 ( Annual CO2 removal: 399 pounds.

Eastern white pine

Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) is maybe the best known and most widely planted pine in the northern United States. It’s native to parts of Ohio and is well-suited to the state’s landscape. While the species grows large and fast, reaching 50–80 feet tall, selections such as Nana, Bennett’s Fastigiate, and Pendula will fit into the home landscape, Snyder said.

Annual landscape benefits based on the specimen’s 19-inch-diameter trunk: $150 ( Annual CO2 removal: 384 pounds.

Korean pine

Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) isn’t widely known as a landscape tree but rivals the eastern white pine for beauty, Snyder said. It makes an excellent specimen tree, with long blue-green needles, a pyramidal shape, and an eventual height of 30–40 feet. Korean pine is very adaptable to soils, except wet soils, and is very cold hardy. It’s one of the species used for pine nuts; its cones produce large, edible seeds.

Southwestern white pine

Southwestern white pine (Pinus strobiformis) has a graceful pyramidal shape when young and dark blue-green needles. It’s native to the southwestern United States and isn’t commonly grown in Ohio except as a Christmas tree. It’s a large landscape tree, reaching 30–60 feet tall, and so needs space to grow.

Scotch pine

Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) has reddish-brown bark that exfoliates as it ages and becomes “quite picturesque,” Snyder said. It’s also adaptable to many soils as long as they’re well-drained. It grows well in Ohio but succumbs to disease with age.

Annual landscape benefits based on the specimen’s 14-inch-diameter trunk: $98 ( Annual CO2 removal: 294 pounds.

Austrian pine

Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) is adaptable, hardy, and makes a good specimen tree, Snyder said. It has long needles, grows 50–60 feet tall and develops great character with age, he said.

Annual landscape benefits based on the specimen’s 13-inch-diameter trunk: $88 ( Annual CO2 removal: 244 pounds.

Sakhalin fir

Sakhalin fir (Abies sachalinensis) is rare. “In fact, the only ones I’ve ever seen are the two in our collection,” Snyder said. “Yet it’s perhaps my favorite fir. It’s a beautiful addition to the landscape.”

Sakhalin fir has soft, green needles—1–1.5 inches long—that have silver undersides and buds. It forms an upright pyramid as it grows and would make a nice landscape specimen, Snyder said. But he said that due to his lack of experience with the tree, he’s not sure how well it would grow in other parts of Ohio.

Noble fir

Noble fir (Abies procera) is just that, Snyder said—a noble tree. It makes an excellent landscape specimen, reaching 50–100 feet in height, but needs room to grow. It has a medium to fast growth rate and glossy bluish-green needles. Noble fir is native to the western United States and prefers cool, moist, well-drained soils. Mulch can help keep its soil cool.

Snyder suggests planting any of the firs detailed above in place of Norway spruce or Colorado blue spruce, which often are overused, he said.

“People tend to plant Norway and blue spruce simply because they’re easy to find, cheap, and relatively fast growing,” he said. “While fir trees don’t grow as fast, they’re worth the wait.”

For details on the arboretum, call 330-263-3761 or go to

All photos by Ken Chamberlain, CFAES.

CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Paul Snyder