What Tree? Nordmann Fir

What Tree? Nordmann Fir

Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmannian)

Of course, with Christmas fast approaching like the Polar Express Train, we thought this month’s What Tree should be a traditional Christmas Tree, the Nordmann Fir Tree (Abies nordmannian).

This tree holds the secret that gardeners, groundsmen and Christmas tree shoppers look for. Easy to grow, easy to maintain, minimal needle drop, and the perfect shape.


The Nordmann Fir is not native to the UK, it originates from the Caucasus Mountains between Europe and Asia and was discovered by Alexander Von Nordmann, German botanist (1803-1866), who introduced the species to western Europe in 1838. In Demark there are some 2,500 growers of Christmas trees and greenery and the annual production is 11 million trees – mostly Nordmann fir. Take a moment to watch this beautiful video from the Danish Christmas Tree Association.

The Nordmann Fir tree is a large evergreen tree that can reach up to 60 metres tall, 2 metres wide and can live for roughly 200 years. It takes around 10 years for it to grow 2 metres in height.

Although it is used to humid, continental climates the tree is very hardy and doesn’t feel the spring frosts like most trees as it starts growing later in the year. Unfortunately it is sensitive and therefore isn’t generally appropriate for urban planting, unless in parks or large gardens.

Appearance and Identification

Nordmann Fir trees are easy to spot due to their overall form. They have a conical shape, with a narrow crown that later spreads out in a cone shape. The bushy branches grow in tiers, getting shorter at the top, together forming a beautiful symmetrical shape.

However, this species can sometimes be confused with one of their popular counterparts, the Norway Spruce (Picea abies). The most distinguishable differences are the needles and cones. Nordmann Fir trees have thick, dark glossy needles, that are not only notched at the tip, but also have distinct white stripes underneath. Norway Spruce needles are pointed at the tips, light green and originate from tiny ‘pegs’. The Fir cones are upright, cylindrical, turning brown when ripe and often in the upper canopy.  Whereas, the Spruce cones are long, cylindrical and hang downwards.

Nordmann Fir Needles

Nordmann Fir Needles

Norway Spruce Needles

In the Autumn, its male flowers appear in small yellow or red catkins and female as green cones grouped at the top of the tree. Its fruits are cones roughly 15cm in length, light green and later turning brown in October/November.

Fir Cones

The dark green needles are soft and shiny, making them pet and child friendly. They have a coating of wax that stops allergy-triggering particles from releasing in the air, making this tree a perfect tree for those with allergies. It’s also famously known for its ‘non-drop needles’.

Uses of Nordmann Fir

Fir tree wood is a type of softwood, making it perfect for general construction (for example, indoor wooden frames). As the Nordmann Fir is a large evergreen, its wood is also widely used for rough timber and pulp – later used in packaging and paper production.

It is widely used as a Christmas tree because of its natural shape and stunning, aromatic foliage. It is often found in parks and large gardens as a popular ornamental tree. When cut, it will last around 4-6 weeks with little to no needle drop.

In a single lifetime, the Nordmann Fir also absorbs 16kg of CO2, helping the environment.

Grow your own

If you like the idea of growing your own tree, Nordmann Fir trees are the best and easiest variety to grow. They are also well-known for being disease resistant.

A full sun exposure, away from cold winds or partial shade is best for the Nordmann Fir, and in the first years should be watered regularly.

Sources and Reference:

Oregon State University

Oklahoma State University