How Fraser Fir Got Its Name
I found this interesting article on how our beautiful, fragrant Fraser fir got their name by Dr. Jill Sidebottom, NCSU. Enjoy!
Fraser fir is named after a man – the Scottish botanist John Fraser.
When North America opened up to explorers, botanists were as important as any adventurer. New plants were treasured by Europeans. A new plant could be anything from a landscape beauty for European royalty to the next cure for a disease to a fast growing forest tree to rebuilt Europe’s harvested forests.
Perhaps one of the most learned and persistent botanist/explorers was the Frenchman, André Michaux, who made many collecting forays into the United States. Michaux’s primary mission was to search American forests for new species of trees with which to rebuild the forests of France (Williams, 2000).
Michaux first arrived in the US in 1785 after extensive and dangerous botanical expeditions in the Middle East. He met and became friends with William Bartram who had explored the Smoky Mountains in 1775. First establishing himself in New Jersey, he moved to Charleston by 1787 to establish a garden 111 acres in size that was to be his home base for the next decade (Williams, 2000).
While reading Michaux’ journal, you realize how hardy these explorers had to be. You also realize how much Michaux depended on his horse. In his translated journal from 1793 to 1796, Michaux mentions his horses 31 times including once when he was injured being thrown from his horse and 7 times that his horse “strayed” and he sometimes had to spend the better part of a day looking for it (Thwaites, 1904).
That brings up a story that is often recounted on the Internet about how John Fraser ended up discovering Fraser fir and not Michaux even though he was the better traveled and superior botanist.
Sickness brought John Fraser to North America who, having consumption, sailed to Newfoundland in 1780 when he was thirty to recover his health.
He was always an ardent lover of plants, and here he found an extensive field, and new objects for admiration, among which he remained until 1784. He had now acquired such a taste for discovery, and such a habit of restlessness, which so prevented him from setting down to any fixed occupation, that in 1785 he set out on a journey to the Southern States of North America, and during two years he was engaged in investigating the botany of that country, which resulted in many valuable additions being made to collections at home. It was when on this journey that he met, and formed an intimate acquaintance, with Thomas Walter, the author of the Flora Caroliniana, a work which Fraser undertook to publish on his return to London, and which he did, as is evidenced by the title page, “Londini: Sumptibus J. Fraser,” and to which is prefixed, by way of frontispiece, an engraving, inscribed, “To Thomas Walter, Esq., this plate of the new Articulated Magnolia is presented, as a testimony of gratitude and esteem, by his much-obliged, humble servant, John Fraser.” He again left England, in 1788, on a second expedition to the Southern States, and this was attended with as great success as the former, for on this occasion also he sent home many new valuable plants. While on this journey he formed an intimacy with the elder Michaux, who had then just entered on his labours as collector for the French government (Fraser, 2007).
This biography implies that Fraser and Michaux became friends, but most prefer to view them as rivals with little regard for each other. The story goes that Michaux and Fraser traveled together in 1787 from South Carolina taking much the same route that Batram had more than a decade earlier (Coffey, 2001). Apparently Fraser talked too much for Michaux, and when Michaux’ horse ran off, he told Fraser to go on ahead without him. As a consequence, John Fraser took the high road and discovered the Fraser fir.
But even if Michaux had seen Fraser fir first, he probably didn’t recognize it as a distinct species. Michaux’ travels to the higher elevations of the Southern Appalachians from 1789 through 1796 allowed him many opportunities to view Frasers, but he seldom remarked about the plant, being more interested in rhododendrons and other showy specimens that had more commercial value. After all, before becoming a Christmas tree, Fraser fir had few commercial uses.
Michaux reported visiting the Abingdon and Wytheville, Virginia, area on November 23 and 24, 1793, where he described two trees: Abies canadensis and Pinus abies canadensis. Michaux also mentions Pinus abies canadensis when he traveled from Jonesborough, Tennessee, to the Iron Mountains on March 21, 1796 (Thwaites, 1904). These are not currently used scientific names though Pinus is the genus for pines and Abies for fir. So what species did he mean by them? Could they have been Fraser fir?
Dr. John Frampton, Christmas tree geneticist with NCSU, surmised that Michaux used Abies canadensis to describe eastern hemlock (now known as Tsuga canadensis) (2008, personnel communication). He couldn’t find a listing for Pinus abies canadensis but it probably referred to Fraser fir, which is now known as Abies fraseri. Other names for Fraser fir in older literature that he found include Pinus fraseri, Picea fraseri, Abies humilis, and Abies americana which was his personal favorite.
It is not surprising that Michaux didn't realize that the tree was different from balsam fir (the Canadian fir). Fraser fir was often referred to as the southern balsam fir in forestry literature up through the 1950s, and mountain people commonly called them balsams. In any case, since Christmas tree growers in western North Carolina were predominately descendants of the Scots-Irish, it’s perhaps fitting it was named for a Scotsman instead of a Frenchman, though the name has been a problem ever since. Even today, the tree is often spelled as Frazer fir or Frazier fir. I even saw one sign locally advertising “Frazer Fur” for sale.
The Fraser fir was first described by German-American botanist Frederick Pursh in Flora Americae Septentrionalis in 1814. Pursh writes, "On high mountain of Carolina. Fraser. This species, known among inhabitants by the name of Double-balsam fir, resembles the preceeding (balsam fir) in several respects but differs at first sight in being a smaller tree, the leaves shorter and more erect, and the cones not one fourth the size. Messrs. Frasers (John Fraser and his son who was also named John Fraser) introduced this tree into England a few years ago."
Thousands of butterflies and moths are dancing and feeding in the Christmas tree fields and on the vegetative borders this time of year. I wanted to share a few of my favorites from the last several days!
On a patch of overgrown flowers at the edge of our Christmas tree farm I found this little fellow. A Great Spangled Fritillary “named for Cybele, the Greek goddess of caverns, who personified the earth in a primitive and savage state.” I found a wonderful article about this butterfly, I hope you enjoy! http://www.sierrapotomac.org/W_Needham/h_notebook.html
I also found a green and gold chrysalis of a Monarch butterfly attached to one of our barns. Monarch butterflies are found flittering around the milkweed that often grows alongside the Fraser fir. The Monarch butterfly that hatches from this chrysalis will travel up to 3000 miles south to Mexico to escape the cold Blue Ridge winter. Such an amazing journey! For more information about Monarch’s visit: http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is another frequent visitor at the farm. They enjoy the Joe Pye Weed along the riparian areas of the fields. This female swallowtail was enjoying the butterfly bush beside a field of Colorado blue spruce.
Need more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papilio_glaucus
Several Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee moths have also made Smokey Holler Tree Farm their home. We usually see these moths around dusk feeding on the phlox and bee balm. The yellow and black striped abdomen makes them look like fast little bumblebees!
Looking for an easy, risk-free, fundraiser this year? Raising funds selling Christmas wreaths, trees, and garland is a great and easy choice!
Let our team at Smokey Holler Tree Farm teach you to energize your members and give them the skills of successful fundraising!
Pre-Selling our farm fresh, Blue Ridge Mountain wreaths, garland, and swags is the perfect NO RISK way for your organization to bring in substantial revenue.
Personalized Sales Flyer
Allows organizational members to show customers a picture of the product they will be selling with a description of the sponsoring organization and personalized message.
Personalized Order Forms
Personalized forms to write the orders on, then hand back to the fundraiser leaders for tallying and recording onto the main Smokey Holler Order Form. These forms can be edited to meet the needs of your group.
If the sponsoring organization has the ability to process credit cards, we can make sure the order form has a place for the seller to take the credit card information and customer’s signature. When the order forms are handed in, the sponsoring organization could then process the credit cards.
Professional Marketing Advice
Contact our farm before October 15 and our staff will teach you how to market your fundraiser to radio stations, newspapers, and groups in your community.
"Our commitment to quality and customer service is unmatched in the Christmas tree and greenery industry and we are dedicated to the long term success of our customers”
Smokey Holler Tree Farm’s beautiful Fraser fir Christmas trees have “roots” in the Mount Rogers Seed Orchard, located in the Grayson Highlands State Park. Many years ago the highest elevations in the Southern Appalachian Mountains were home to Fraser fir and Red spruce forests. An imported pest, the balsam wooly adelgid, killed much of the wild Fraser fir stands and eliminated an important species from these native ecosystems.
“The Mount Rogers Christmas Tree Growers Association maintains a Fraser fir seed orchard of approximately 1200 selected trees. The seed orchard is located in the higher elevations of Grayson County Virginia in the beautiful Grayson Highlands State Park. All of the seed orchard trees are of the Mount Rogers strain of Fraser fir.” – Mount Rogers Area Christmas Tree Association
Smokey Holler Tree Farm helps area Christmas tree growers and the Mount Rogers Park Staff maintain the Mount Rogers Fraser Fir Orchard. We spent last weekend harvesting seed from the amazing trees growing there. The seed will be used to grow new Mount Rogers strain Fraser fir, ensuring the survival of the species for another generation.
The Mount Rogers Area Christmas Tree Growers and the Virginia Department of Forestry are in the process of establishing a new seed orchard at the Old Flat within Mount Rogers. Smokey Holler Tree Farm has been participating in the project by managing the new site and helping to select the best Fraser fir trees to be a part of the new orchard. This new orchard will capture the best genetics for quality Christmas trees and wildlife habitat and will allow for the Mount Rogers strain of Fraser fir to be protected from extinction.
It’s a beautiful day at Smokey Holler Tree Farm! The temperature is in the low 70’s and there is a wonderful breeze. Our Smokey Holler Tree Farm team is trimming Fraser fir Christmas trees today. We have been hearing bobwhite quail and a few grouse in the fields as we work.
Our North Carolina Christmas tree farm teems with wildlife during the late summer. We see deer, turkey (yesterday we saw 6 poults), grouse, and an occasional black bear on our farm.
Integrated Pest Management, IPM, is our guide for growing the best Christmas trees for our customers. An important part of Smokey Holler Tree Farm’s mission is to create a sustainable and eco-friendly farm with varying habitat to support a large variety of wildlife. Much of our land is managed as forest and we leave large riparian buffers along the trout filled streams and creeks at Smokey Holler Tree Farm.
We are so blessed to have our Christmas tree farm in our backyard!