Recognize this tree? Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) is America's favorite Christmas tree! It has been chosen as the official White House Christmas tree more than any other species.
Native to the Appalachian Mountains, it is under threat from the balsam woolly adelgid, an invasive insect pest that was introduced into the U.S. from Europe in the early 1900s. Infestations of this pest kill mature trees, reduce viability of seeds, and make the trees more susceptible to fungal infections. Currently, we have no practical way to prevent adelgid infestations in the wild.
Scientists with the U.S. Forest Service and collaborating universities are studying the genetic diversity of the small remaining wild populations of Fraser fir. They are collecting seed to protect in a seed bank to ensure this species does not go extinct.
What can you do? Avoid harvesting a wild Fraser fir as your Christmas tree (farmed Fraser firs are okay, because farms usually maintain their own seed orchards). If you do cut down your own Christmas tree from the wild, choose spruce or another species of fir instead. Prevent the spread of invasive insects by not moving firewood between campsites.