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Got Christmas Tree Questions? There's an App for That

While Blue Spruce trees are beautiful, their needles can draw blood.

Heading out to Indiana (the Christmas tree Capitol of the World) to buy your tree this year? Need help finding one that’s right for your family? The new Doug Fir Christmas Tree Guide app is designed steer you toward the right one while also learning about biology of many tree species along with some trivia.

Christopher Hardy, a biology professor at Millersville University, created the app to help him better learn the history of many species of Christmas tree and what some were previously used for. 

He said the Frasier and Douglas Firs are the most commonly found trees in most pre-cut lots.

“Those are great trees, and that’s why basically it’s hard to find anything but those. But there’s so many other trees.” said Hardy. “All the Firs, not just the Frasier Fir are wonderful trees, they’re very soft with their needles, they have wonderful fragrance. There’s actually some species of Fir that are nicer in many ways than the Frasier Fir. And yet the Frasier Fir is kind of the one you typically find.”

Hardy said some people choose to go with a Spruce tree, but they should beware because they are known to drop their needles when they dry out. The Blue Spruce, while beautiful, is also known for having needles sharp enough to draw blood.

Hardy created the app with the help of a computer science student who needed a biology credit to graduate.

He said, according to the USDA, in the 1940s and 50s the Blue Spruce was the leading Christmas tree in the United States but they’re harder to find now. He said it’s most likely because of their needle issues.

Hardy said Pines also make good Christmas trees. They have longer needles that are typically soft, have a good smell, and are cheaper then the Firs.

He said you don’t have to go all the way to Indiana to find some of the best trees.

“Christmas tree farms, even nowadays, are pretty restricted in what they grow,” said Hardy. “But there’s common tree nurseries all around the Pittsburgh area that grow a variety of different conifers that have been used in the past for Christmas trees and certainly are quite nice.”

Hardy has also included trivia about the trees in the app. For instance, the tree Ralphie’s family buy’s in A Christmas Story is a Scotch Pine.

The app is available for free from the Google Play Store. An iPhone app is still in development.