Christmas tree geneticist John Frampton rubs the sprigs of a two-inch seedling, planted two years ago from the seed of a fir cone from the Uludag Mountain region in western Turkey.
This Uludag seedling tube is one of thousands in a greenhouse at North Carolina State University, where Mr. Frampton tests DNA and blends characteristics of trees from around the world in search of the perfect Christmas tree. He wants to know if this hardy family of Turkish fir will hold on to its needles when cut, sold and decorated, perhaps offering an alternative to the state’s ubiquitous Fraser fir in disease-prone areas. “We’re trying to find a tree that grows faster, is better quality and has pest resistance,” he said.
Mr. Frampton’s work matters greatly to Christmas tree growers nationwide as sales of live trees decline.