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Exotic Conifers: The Trojan Fir

Trojan Fir

When Christmas trees come to mind, growers are familiar with the “tried and true” species such as Balsam Fir, Douglas Fir, Blue Spruce, and the reigning champion, Fraser Fir. However, as the weather becomes more unpredictable and extreme, growers are turning to less finicky alternatives in exotic Firs.

Technically, exotic tree species are considered those not native to our area. In the context of Christmas trees, the term “exotic” has morphed into meaning “less common or unusual” according to the MSU Extension. To help familiarize you with the trending selections, we will explore different types of exotic Firs in an informational series of posts. Today’s topic is Trojan Fir, also known as Abies equi-trojani

Attributes of Trojan Fir

Trojan Fir is a subspecies of Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmanniana). Nordmann Fir is indigenous to the mountains of southeastern Europe and is one of the most popular Christmas trees in Europe. Trojan Firs are native to two mountainous areas in northwestern Turkey and are somewhat similar to Bornmueller Fir. 

Trojan Firs are beautiful trees, and once established grow strong and fast into a specimen tree. Specimen trees are considered large or high profile plants that are most often grown to larger sizes because of their phenomenal color, shape, or branching. 

This tree species has lustrous, dark green foliage accented by needles with blue undersides. The needles are long, thick, shiny, and are highly-scented. Trojan Fir shoots are usually glabrous (hairless).

Pros and Cons

Christmas tree growers are accustomed to producing a wide variety of trees but with Trojan Fir in particular, there are several pros and cons that should be considered.

One major issue we’ve heard discussed this past few years is Phytophthora – A soil-borne, water mold that infects trees, woody plants, and even vegetables. The name Phytophthora derives from Greek, meaning “plant destroyer” – it is the number-one disease of nursery crops nationwide, according to Oregon State University. Notorious Phytophthora diseases include rhododendron root rot, sudden oak death, and potato late blight. While many species of Phytophthora are found natively, several species are invasive and highly damaging to most conifers. Depending on your region, you may have heard discussions around three in particular: Ramorum, Cinnamomi, and Cactorum.

Phytophthora cinnamoni on spruce
Phytophthora Cinnamoni on Spruce. Photo source: Penn State Department of Plant Pathology & Environmental Microbiology Archives , Penn State University, Bugwood.org
Phytophthora collar rot (Phytophthora sp.) on a young apple tree
Phytophthora Collar Rot on a Young Apple Tree.
Photo source: William M. Brown Jr., Bugwood.org
An apple tree with a Phytophthora crown rot infection caused by Phytophthora spp. in the field.
An Apple Tree with a Phytophthora Crown Rot Infection
Photo source: H.J. Larsen, Bugwood.org

During a 10-year study called the “Collaborative Fir Germplasm Evaluation Project” (or “CoFirGE” for short), they evaluated the Nordmann Fir species and found that Trojan Fir was one of the more resistant selections to Phytophthora among the Nordmann Fir family. 

A few other pros of Trojan Fir includes: 

  • Strong needle retention
  • Hardiness 
  • Fast growth rate
  • Climate change adaptive (meaning it is more resistant to heat change)

Unfortunately, Trojan Fir is prone to early bud break, which means Michigan nurseries need to watch out for late-season frosts – otherwise, bud abortion can occur. Also, Trojan Fir must be sheared earlier in the growth process in order to promote a vertical growth habit rather than its natural tendencies for lateral growth. 

Consider Growing Trojan Fir

Christmas tree growers produce Exotic Fir to give customers a wider range of choices, and in some cases, these species may be modified to adapt better in certain soil conditions and more resistance to diseases, like the Trojan Fir. 

If you’re considering growing Trojan Fir in your business, fill out this form to receive a free Trojan Fir seedling.