Needle retention, xylem pressure potential and overall quality of canaan fir (Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis (L.) Mill.) and fraser fir (Abies fraseri (Pursh) Poir.) Christmas trees were evaluated over a 40-day display period. Cut trees were stored outdoors for 24, 48, or 96 hours, and half the trees had a 2.5-cm section trimmed from the basal portion of the stem, before placement in water at an indoor display room. Controls were placed in water immediately after harvest. Xylem pressure potentials and overall quality were similar for both species except for trees stored 96 hours. Untrimmed canaan fir dried to -2.4 MPa and was rated below average by the end of the display period compared to -1.3 MPa and a good quality rating for fraser fir. Needle retention and color characteristics were excellent across all treatments for fraser fir during the entire display period. Needle loss for canaan fir began relatively soon during display, generally increased across all treatments, and was highly variable. In addition, quality of some canaan fir trees decreased as needles turned brown, but did not shed during the display period. Tree water status alone did not completely account for loss of needles and quality in canaan fir; the need exists to identify seed sources with better postharvest characteristics.
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