Noble Fir vs Douglas Fir: What’s the Difference?

Have you ever found yourself amid a forest, surrounded by towering trees, and wondered about the species you’re observing? Today, we will delve into the world of Fir trees, specifically focusing on two popular species: the Noble Fir and the Douglas Fir. While similar in many ways, these trees have unique characteristics that set them apart. So, buckle up and get ready to embark on a journey of discovery as we explore the distinguishing features of these two Fir tree species.

History and Origin

Noble Fir: A Majestic Legacy

The Noble Fir, scientifically known as Abies procera, is a tree that commands respect. Native to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, particularly in Washington and Oregon, this tree has a rich history. The Noble Fir is not just a tree; it’s a symbol of the region’s natural beauty and biodiversity.

Historically, the wood of the Noble Fir has been highly valued for its strength and straight grain. Indigenous tribes used it for constructing tools and building materials. Today, it’s a popular choice for timber and is also widely used for Christmas trees, thanks to its symmetrical shape and robust branches.

Douglas Fir: A Stalwart of the Forest

On the other hand, we have the Douglas Fir, or Pseudotsuga menziesii, another native of the Pacific Northwest. The Douglas Fir is more than just a tree; it’s a testament to the resilience and diversity of nature.

The Douglas Fir has a fascinating history. It was named after David Douglas, a Scottish botanist who was among the first to document the tree during his travels in the 19th century. The Douglas Fir has played a significant role in the region’s timber industry, with its wood being highly prized for its versatility and durability.

Interestingly, the National Christmas Tree Association is located in Chesterfield, Missouri. This association plays a crucial role in promoting and protecting the interests of the Christmas tree industry, where both the Noble Fir and Douglas Fir are popular choices.

Physical Characteristics and Varieties

Noble Fir: A Towering Beauty

The Noble Fir is a sight to behold. It stands tall and proud, reaching heights of up to 200-230 feet. Its bark is smooth and gray when young, becoming reddish-brown and furrowed as it matures. The tree’s needles are a distinguishing feature, bluish-green, about an inch long, and curving upwards, giving the branches a unique, “frosted” appearance.

The cones of the Noble Fir are another remarkable feature. They are upright, cylindrical, and can grow up to 6 inches long. The cones have distinctive bract scales that protrude beyond the cone scales, giving them a unique appearance.

There are several cultivars of the Noble Fir, each with its unique characteristics. For instance, the ‘Glauca’ variety is known for its striking blue-green needles, while ‘Nana’ is a dwarf variety that grows slowly and is perfect for small gardens.

Douglas Fir: A Sturdy Standout

The Douglas Fir is a robust and resilient tree. It can reach impressive heights of 70-250 feet, with some old-growth trees exceeding this range. The bark is thick and corky, with deep grooves, and ranges in color from gray to brown.

The needles of the Douglas Fir are flat, soft, and dark green, measuring about 1 to 1.5 inches in length. They radiate in all directions from the branch, giving the tree a full, lush appearance. The cones are pendulous, with three-pronged bracts from the scales, leading to folk tales about mice hiding in the cones!

There are several varieties and cultivars of the Douglas Fir. The ‘Fletcheri’ is a popular dwarf cultivar with a dense, rounded habit, while ‘Pendula’ is known for its weeping form. As the name suggests, the ‘Blue’ variety has stunning blue-green foliage that adds color to any landscape.


Noble Fir: A Versatile Virtuoso

The Noble Fir is a tree of many talents. Its strong, straight-grained wood is highly valued in the timber industry, where it’s used for general construction, plywood, and even musical instruments. The wood’s natural resistance to decay also makes it a popular choice for outdoor applications, such as decking and fencing.

But the Noble Fir’s talents don’t stop at timber. This tree is a superstar in the Christmas tree industry. Its symmetrical shape, robust branches, and long-lasting needles make it a favorite choice for holiday decorations. The branches are sturdy enough to hold heavy ornaments, and the tree retains its needles well, keeping your home looking festive throughout the holiday season.

The Noble Fir is often used as a specimen tree in landscaping, thanks to its majestic height and beautiful foliage. Its various cultivars, particularly the dwarf varieties, are popular for rock gardens and small spaces.

Douglas Fir: A Dependable Dynamo

The Douglas Fir is a workhorse in the world of trees. Its wood is incredibly versatile, used in various applications from construction and flooring to furniture and veneer. The wood’s strength and durability make it a preferred choice for structural applications, while its fine grain and beautiful color make it desirable for furniture and cabinetry.

Like the Noble Fir, the Douglas Fir is also popular for Christmas trees. Its lush, dark green needles, pleasing fragrance, and full, conical shape make it a holiday favorite. While its branches may not be as sturdy as the Noble Fir, it still holds up well to a generous array of ornaments.

The Douglas Fir is often used for windbreaks and screens in landscaping, thanks to its dense foliage and fast growth. Its various cultivars add interest and diversity to gardens, with options ranging from dwarf forms to blue-foliaged varieties.

So, which Fir makes the best Christmas tree? It’s a matter of personal preference. If you favor sturdy branches and a frosted appearance, the Noble Fir maybe your tree of choice. If you prefer a lush, full tree with a delightful fragrance, the Douglas Fir could be the one for you.

Growth and Care

Noble Fir: A Regal Resident

Growing a Noble Fir requires a bit of knowledge and care. This tree prefers well-drained, acidic soil and full sun exposure. It’s tolerant of cold temperatures and can withstand heavy snowfall, making it a great choice for cooler climates.

In terms of resistance to rot, the Noble Fir stands out. Its wood is naturally resistant to decay, contributing to its longevity and durability in outdoor applications. After being cut, a Noble Fir tree can last for about four to five weeks, provided it’s kept well-watered and away from direct heat sources.

Douglas Fir: A Hardy Hero

The Douglas Fir is a resilient tree that can adapt to various conditions. It grows best in well-drained, loamy soil and full sun but can also tolerate partial shade. It’s resistant to wind and can handle a range of temperatures, making it a versatile choice for different landscapes.

The Douglas Fir is less rot-resistant than the Noble Fir but is still fairly durable. With proper care, a cut Douglas Fir can last about three to four weeks during the holiday season.

Diseases and Pests

Both Noble Fir and Douglas Fir are susceptible to certain diseases and pests. Common diseases include root rot, needle cast, and canker diseases. Pests such as the balsam woolly adelgid, spruce budworm, and various types of beetles can also pose a threat.

Prevention and treatment involve regular monitoring, maintaining good tree health, and using appropriate pest control methods when necessary. It’s always a good idea to consult with a local extension service or arborist for specific advice tailored to your region and tree species.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of Noble Fir and Douglas Fir is significant. These trees play a crucial role in their ecosystems, providing habitat for wildlife, preventing soil erosion, and contributing to the water cycle.

Moreover, like all trees, the Noble Fir and Douglas Fir are excellent at sequestering carbon, helping mitigate climate change’s effects. They also contribute to air quality by absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen.

Comparison: Noble Fir vs Douglas Fir

As we’ve journeyed through the world of Fir trees, we’ve discovered the unique characteristics, uses, care requirements, and environmental impacts of Noble Fir and Douglas Fir. Now, let’s bring it all together and compare these remarkable species.


The Noble Fir and Douglas Fir are majestic trees that can reach impressive heights. The Noble Fir stands out with its bluish-green, upward-curving needles and unique, upright cones. The Douglas Fir, on the other hand, boasts flat, dark green needles that radiate in all directions and pendulous cones with distinctive three-pronged bracts.


In terms of uses, both trees are versatile. Their wood is highly valued in the timber industry, and they’re both popular choices for Christmas trees. The Noble Fir is known for its sturdy branches and long-lasting needles, while the Douglas Fir is loved for its lush appearance and pleasing fragrance.


Regarding care, both trees prefer well-drained soil and full sun exposure. The Noble Fir is more tolerant of cold temperatures and heavy snowfall, while the Douglas Fir is more adaptable to different light conditions and is resistant to wind.

Environmental Impact

Both trees play significant roles in their ecosystems, providing habitat for wildlife, preventing soil erosion, and sequestering carbon. They contribute to the health of our planet and the beauty of our landscapes.

Smell and Sensory Experience

Noble Fir: A Fragrant Feast

The Noble Fir is not just a feast for the eyes, but also for the nose. It emits a fresh, crisp scent many associate with the holiday season. The smell is often described as slightly sweet and reminiscent of a cool, winter forest. So, does the Noble Fir tree smell good? Absolutely! Its aroma is one of the reasons it’s such a popular choice for Christmas trees.

Douglas Fir: A Scented Spectacle

The Douglas Fir also offers a delightful sensory experience. Its scent is typically more robust and complex than Noble Fir’s, with sweet, resinous pine notes. Some people even detect a hint of citrus or apple in the Douglas Fir’s aroma. This rich, inviting smell contributes to the tree’s popularity during the holiday season.

Noble Fir vs Douglas Fir Smell

Comparing the smells of the Noble Fir and Douglas Fir, it’s a matter of personal preference. You might lean towards the Noble Fir if you prefer a fresh, crisp scent. If you enjoy a stronger, more complex aroma, the Douglas Fir could be your tree of choice.


As we wrap up our exploration of the Noble Fir and Douglas Fir, it’s clear that both trees have a lot to offer. They’re both majestic, versatile, and environmentally beneficial. They each have unique characteristics that make them stand out, from their physical features to their uses, care requirements, and sensory experiences.

So, which Fir tree lasts the longest? In terms of longevity after being cut, the Noble Fir has a slight edge, typically lasting four to five weeks with proper care. The Douglas Fir, while not quite as long-lasting, can stay fresh for about three to four weeks.