Canaan Fir (Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis)
(pronounced "Ka-naan", with emphasis on the last syllable) is a relative newcomer to the Christmas tree market. It has many similarities to both Fraser and balsam firs in growth and appearance. Unfortunately, this similarity which has led to a great deal of confusion.
Canaan Firs are beautiful evergreen trees that are closely related to the Balsam Fir. Their popularity as a cut Christmas tree has grown over the years because it is one of the longest lasting cut trees, remaining fresh from Thanksgiving through New Years! The shape of the Canaan Fir is beautiful, it has strong branches for hanging ornaments, an exceptional fragrance, and excellent needle retention.
Canaan Fir has short, soft needles that are a lustrous dark green on the upper surface and a lovely silvery blue on the underside. Some of these fir trees even have a beautiful bluish tint to the needles. The wonderful fragrance of the Canaan Fir rivals that of its cousin the Balsam Fir and it will fill the house with the delightful "scent of Christmas".
The Canaan Fir is considered to be a variety of Balsam Fir. During the Pleistocene glaciation, it is thought that many of the northern conifer species, including the Balsam Fir, migrated south along the Appalachian Mountain range until there was a continuous fir population from Canada south to North Carolina. As the climate warmed, the Balsam Fir retreated to the north and southern species replaced the fir trees at lower elevations in the south. However, isolated pockets of firs remained at higher elevations in the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. These firs, now considered varieties of Balsam Fir, are Fraser Fir (Abies balsamea var. fraseri) found in the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia and Canaan Fir native to the higher elevations of West Virginia and Virginia.