Virginia pine (Pinus Virginiana) is a short-needled pine with pleasant pine fragrance, dense foliage and good growth rates. It has been by far the most widely planted southern Christmas tree over the past three decades and still is the most common species at most farms in the deep South.
The most exciting thing to happen in the short history of the southern Christmas Tree industry is the introduction of Leyland cypress.
In the 1800's numerous tree species from all over the world were planted in an arboretum at Leighton Hall estate in England (Welshpool, Wales). In 1888 six unusual seedlings were noticed at Leighton Hall, apparently from a rare inter generic cross between an Alaska-Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) mother tree and a nearby Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa). Both parent trees are native to the North-American Pacific coast. The new hybrid (X Cupressocyparis leylandii) was called a cypress since the Alaska-Cedar is a "false cypress" and the Monterey Cypress is a "true cypress." Neither are related to our southern baldcypress (Taxodium distichum).
Today, Leyland cypress is fast replacing Virginia pine as the tree of choice at many Christmas tree farms. Customers like it because it is not only a very beautiful Christmas tree, but if kept in water, it will outlast any other tree without leaving needles in the carpet.
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is the traditional native Christmas tree that many southerners remember from their childhood. Red cedars grow naturally throughout the South, and, in Christmas' past, many families just cut a red cedar from a fence row or from the woodlot behind their house. The red cedar is normally quite dense, has outstanding aroma, a pleasant green color and a natural "Christmas tree" shape. Its drawbacks include sticky needles and a relatively short houselife.
Carolina Sapphire is a cultivar of Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica). It was isolated by the South Carolina Forestry Commission in the 1970's, and today is beginning to be planted on a limited basis across the South.
Its best characteristics include fast growth, a beautiful blue color and an excellent aroma. Many southern farms are presently planting limited quantities of this beautiful tree.