The true fir trees that exist in North America feature thick tops that resemble the spires of churches, according to the "Trees of North America" handbook. The fir species in the United States possess flat and fat needles that develop right on the tree's branches. The seed-bearing cones grow upright on the branches and fall apart when mature, scattering the fir's seeds. The firs are useful for ornamental purposes, and many types of firs become Christmas trees.
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The Fraser fir, named for the Scottish botanical expert John Fraser, who made exploratory trips into the southern portions of the Appalachian Mountains where this species grows, also goes by the name of southern balsam. Fraser fir has a pyramidal look to it and can grow to heights of around 80 feet. This is the only type of fir that grows native to the southeastern part of the nation. The evergreen needles are up to an inch in length, and the purple cones require just one season to mature to full size. Red squirrels consider the seeds a delicacy and often wind up spreading them far from the tree, where they may germinate and develop. The species makes an excellent Christmas tree, states the National Christmas Tree Association website. It can take as long as 10 years for a 7-foot specimen to grow.
The noble fir has silvery green needles that grow to an inch and a half long. This large evergreen fir tree, capable of being 200 feet tall and having a trunk diameter 5 feet wide, grows in the mountain terrain of the Pacific Northwest in California, Oregon and Washington. This tree prefers elevations between 2,000 and 5,000 feet, according to "Trees of North America." The cones of a noble fir are as long as 6 inches and appear to have a series of tiny "shingles" covering them. The cones typically grow in the top portion of a noble fir. In the wild, a noble fir grows alongside the Pacific silver fir and other evergreen conifer species of trees. The noble fir is a popular Christmas tree in the area where it grows. The wood of a noble fir is strong, possesses a light grain and is useful as a material to make doors, siding and panelling.
The crown of a subalpine fir tree is thin, with the crown often less than a foot in width as it tapers to a distinct point. The subalpine fir has branches that will touch the ground around the trunk, and the tree can grow to be around 90 feet tall but is often in the 40- to 60-foot range. The subalpine fir often has a twisted, contorted trunk with thin, furrowed bark on the older individual trees. The cones are plentiful every year and are as long as 3.5 inches. The needles are about 1 inch, and the tree grows in areas of high elevations. The geographic range of subalpine fir includes the length of the Rocky Mountains, parts of the Pacific Northwest and much of British Columbia into Alaska and the Yukon Territory. The tree grows in conjunction with different varieties of spruce and Douglas firs, forming large forests where animals such as grizzly bears, moose and elk live.
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