If Charlie Brown is looking for a top-of-the-line Christmas tree, he may want to head to western North Carolina. It is, after all, where the Fraser fir that is currently on display in the White House was cut.
It is the 13th time since 1971 that a Fraser from the Tar Heel State was selected for official presidential display in the Blue Room: In the 57 years formal records have been kept, no other state has provided as many for this purpose. And it has little to do with politics.
Annual selection is by the National Christmas Tree Association, a growers’ group that knows the fine points of this botanical beauty contest. And Frasers are a regional specialty. According to Jennifer Greene, executive director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, “99.4 percent of all Christmas tree species grown in this state are Frasers, and are from family-owned operations.”
Nationally, North Carolina ranks second in Christmas tree production (Oregon is first).
The Fraser is celebrated in many towns and cities across the state during the holiday run-up. Biltmore, the Vanderbilt estate attraction in Asheville, uses a Fraser as the centerpiece for its Christmas festivities; the 35-foot fir is on display in the Banquet Room through Jan. 6.
What’s the tree’s appeal? “They have exceptional needle retention,” says Jeff Owen of NC State University’s College of Natural Resources. He’s the extension specialist whose responsibility is Christmas trees. “Needles are soft and dark green. Branches are supple, yet firm enough to support plenty of ornaments. With good horticultural practices, Frasers form a beautiful, cone-shaped tree with dense foliage. Frasers are really the ideal tree most people picture when they think of a Christmas tree.”