What Is The Difference Between Douglas Fir And Fraser Fir?

It can be hard to tell evergreen trees apart. They are all tall, triangular-shaped, with sharp needles and pine cones, right? Well, not exactly, if you know what you’re looking for, you will notice lots of differences between the different kinds of evergreens. So, have you ever wondered, what is the difference between Douglas Fir and Fraser fir? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll explore these two popular Christmas tree evergreens.

What is Douglas Fir?

What is Douglas Fir

Douglas fir trees are tall, beautiful evergreens found in and west of the Rocky Mountains. Their scientific name is pseudotsuga, which means “false hemlock.”

Douglas firs can grow up to 250 feet tall. In the wild, they typically grow in mixed conifer forests, shedding their lower branches as they get taller.

They are conical trees that stand straight and tall. Their branches are covered in short, prickly needles which grow in flat rows from opposite sides of each branch.

Douglas firs have unique-looking pine cones owing to their seeds. The seeds protrude from the openings in the cone, hanging down in rows of spiky, leaflike projections. 

Douglas firs are sun-loving trees. Those found in the Rocky Mountains are far more cold-tolerant than those found in coastal regions. 

How to Identify Douglas Fir

Douglas firs have a few identifying features to help distinguish them from other evergreens. Some of these features include:

  • Longer, flatter needles: Some evergreens have needles that surround the branches; Douglas fir needles grow oppositely from each branch, giving the branches a flat appearance. The needles are round, short- to medium-length, and pointed on the end.
  • Darker coloring: Douglas fir trees have a deep, dark, pine-green coloring that is somewhat darker than that of Fraser firs.
  • Pointed pine cones: As noted, the pine cones of douglas fir are rather distinctive. They are medium to large in size, oval-shaped, and have pointed, leaf-shaped seed husks protruding from the openings.

Check out this video for more identification help:

What is Fraser Fir?

Fraser firs are relatively small evergreens found in the Appalachian Mountains in the U.S. They are beautiful, densely-needled trees commonly grown for the Christmas tree industry.

Full-grown Fraser firs grow from 30 to 55 feet tall. They can grow in mixed forests at elevations of 4,000 to 6,700 feet and need loose, moist, acidic soil.

These trees are narrow and conical when they are young, and they grow more bushy as they mature. Their branches are covered in soft, bushy needles the slope upwards from the top and sides of each branch.

These trees have large, rounded, conical pine cones. They are green when they are young, turn brown when they are mature, and stand erect on the tops of the branches until they drop their seeds and fall.

Fraser firs can do well in full sun, but they thrive in partial shade. They do best in mild to cold temperatures, and they will die if exposed to periods of heat or drought.

How to Identify Fraser Fir

How to Identify Fraser Fir

Some of the best identifying features of Fraser fir include:

  • Shorter, upward-sloping needles: The needles of Fraser fir protrude from all sides of each branch, but they tend to slope upward toward the topside of the branch. This gives them a thick, brush-like appearance.
  • Lighter, softer coloring: Fraser firs are a deep, pine-green color, but they often have a silvery sheen that gives them a more pale appearance. Their flat needles are soft and blunt on the ends, giving the tree a very soft appearance.
  • Rounded pine cones: The pine cones appear to match the softness of the rest of the tree. They are conical and rounded with no sharp edges.

For more identification help, check out this video:

What is the Difference Between Douglas Fir and Fraser Fir?

Douglas fir and Fraser fir are two different types of evergreen conifers. They are not members of the same species; in fact, douglas firs are not even true firs trees.

Both Douglas and Fraser firs are frequently used as Christmas trees. Fraser firs are known for being the most popular in the Christmas tree industry.

One of the biggest differences between two types of trees is where they grow in the wild. 

Douglas firs are native to the Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, and West Coast regions of the U.S. On the other hand, Fraser firs are native to the Appalachian Mountains of the east and need very specific growing conditions.

What’s more, Douglas firs grow much larger than Fraser firs, as shown above. Whereas Douglas fir trees can grow up to 250 feet, Frasers typically top out around 55 feet at most. 


Douglas firs and Fraser firs are both types of evergreen tree commonly grown and sold by the Christmas tree industry. Their primary differences are their native ranges, their size, and the fact that Douglas firs are not considered true fir trees.

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