Christmas tree growers are looking to more resilient evergreens that originate in faraway places to withstand Michigan’s increasingly more unpredictable and extreme weather, otherwise known as exotic Firs. These newly popular Firs promise better performance in acclimate growing conditions.
As previously stated in this blog series, exotic tree species are those not considered “native” to the immediate area. In the context of Christmas trees, the term “exotic” typically means “less common or unusual” according to the MSU Extension. There are several different exotic Firs, and in this series of informational posts, we have explored some of them, including Trojan Fir and Canaan Fir.
In this edition of the exotic Fir series, we will divulge into the common attributes of Turkish Fir (Abies bornmuelleriana), as well as the pros and cons of growing this particular Christmas tree.
Attributes of Turkish Fir
Turkish Fir, also known as the Black Sea Fir, are native to southeastern Europe in the mountains around the Black Sea. They are closely related to the Nordmann Fir. According to the MSU Extension, some botanists even suggest Turkish and Nordmann Fir are varieties of the same species.
Both Turkish and Nordmann Firm species are full and have deep green needles with lime-colored new tips in the spring and early summer. The needles stick upward, revealing a bright, silvery underside and creating a flashy two-tone effect.
Turkish Fir have layered appearance to their branches, which are sturdy, smooth, and form a conical structure creating dense but soft foliage. Once fully grown, this species of conifer can reach 50-80 feet in height and can have a spread of 10-15 feet.
Pros and Cons of Growing Turkish Fir
A major pro for the Turkish Fir is that it is often considered tougher and faster growing than the Nordmann Fir, despite their similarities. This Fir is also more tolerant of warmer climates than other fir species, according to the University of Minnesota’s UFOR Nursery and Lab. It’s a good species for the Southwest.
The Turkish Fir roots can tolerate damp or wet soils, making it a better choice for irrigated garden landscaped, however this species does best in rich, acidic, well-drained soil in full to partial sun. These trees make excellent living Christmas trees due to their soil adaptability and excellent needle retention. They are also very fragrant.
Another major pro of the Turkish Fir is that it is less prone to Phytophthora root rot. This type of root rot is a soil-borne, water mold that infects trees, woody plants, and even vegetables. The name Phytophthora derives from Greek, meaning “plant destroyer.”
Phytophthora root rot is a common disease of Christmas trees, and the disease has caused significant problems in Christmas tree production in several states according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is the number-one disease of nursery crops nationwide, according to Oregon State University. Due to their resistance to Phytophthora, some research suggests some usefulness to planting Turkish Fir and other similar resistance conifers including Nordmann, Toros, and King Boris in Phytophthora-infested sites.
However, a con to consider would be that Turkish Fir tends to break bud in early spring and are subject to late frost damage. Another issue with this particular species of Conifer is bud abortion. It can be an issue throughout the life cycle of the tree, but some growers say it’s a bigger issue when the trees are young. A grower in Pennsylvania said instead of shearing the trees during the growing season, he waits until the following spring so the tree decides which buds will break before cutting that leader. Turkish Fir have relatively short leaders, so it’s important to get to the root system with bud pruning and fertilizing.
Consider Growing Turkish Fir
Christmas tree growers produce exotic Firs to give customers a wider range of choices, and in some cases, these species may be modified to adapt better in certain climates and diseases, like the Turkish Fir.