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How Christmas Trees Get Their Look


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How Christmas Trees Get Their Look

Christmas trees have a distinctive shape — perfect for decorating with tree ornaments and lights, easy to turn into kindergarten craft projects. Unlike deciduous trees that lose their leaves in fall, the evergreens we use for holiday decorating — pines, spruces, firs and others — keep their needles and tend to grow in a pyramid shape.

How and why do Christmas trees get this look?

Evergreen Trees and Evolution

Coniferous trees evolved to survive in cold climates. Their shape has evolved in response to wind, snow and light.

They have a few advantages over deciduous trees:

  • The needles capture sunlight year-round, since they don’t fall off when temperatures get cooler
  • The thick coating of needles holds more water than regular leaves
  • Needles survive in ice and snow
  • Needles have lower wind resistance than flat leaves, meaning the tree is less likely to blow over during a storm

Deciduous trees, with long branches and a round, heavy crown, don’t grow well in cold climates and further north. The shape of conifers is much better adapted to windy or barren landscapes.

Photosynthesis

Close up of needles on evergreen tree Photo Irina Iriser Pexels The shape of pine and coniferous trees is made to maximize sun exposure for the tree, especially in regions of limited sunlight. Top branches don’t block light from the bottom branches. This helps both window pass through and sun come in, especially during seasons of low light. No Christmas lights needed in nature!

Snow and Ice

Evergreen trees’ pyramidal shape also helps to keep heavy, wet snow off the upper branches. Unlike deciduous trees, which can often lose branches under the weight of snow or ice during winter storms, evergreens usually weather these conditions well.

Conifers have shallower roots than deciduous trees. Long and sturdy roots help keep deciduous trees standing during storms. But with coniferous trees, the needle shape and the triangular shape of the tree helps provide greater wind resistance, helping trees keep standing during windy weather.

Do All Evergreens Have the Same Shape Naturally?

Actually, only a handful of the world’s 630 coniferous tree species have this distinctive shape naturally. Those trees are mainly spruces and firs.

Pine trees often start out with a cone shape as seedlings, but become rounded or irregular as they get taller. It takes dedication from Christmas tree growers to prune pines into the shape we’re familiar with on tree lots in December.

The shape we recognize as a Christmas tree comes from northern European holiday traditions.

Northern European evergreen trees are most likely to grow in a cone shape. This is in part due to the reduced hours of light in wintertime, as well as the sun hitting the ground at a lower angle than here in North America, closer to the equator. The distribution of branches helps ensure that the limited sunlight can reach all parts of the tree.

Christmas Tree Pruning

Christmas tree growers work to prune trees into cone shapes to sell to holidaymakers on tree lots. Once a tree reaches a height of around 1 metre, the branches are trimmed after the spring to direct growth into a pyramidal shape. This continues until the tree reaches about 6-8 years old, at which time it may be headed for your home.

Whether in your living room or your yard, evergreen trees can provide a beautiful, festive look to the season and all winter long.

If you’re looking for some real-life Christmas tree pruning on your property, contact Vista Tree today to find out more about how to keep your evergreens healthy!

author avatar
Michael Co-Founder
Michael is a Certified Arborist and founder of the company. He holds a Certificate in Urban Arboriculture (Honours) from Humber College, Certificate in Project Leadership from Cornell, has post-graduate studies in Urban Forestry and Arboriculture from Oregon State College of Foresty and holds a BAH in Ancient History with a minor in Business. In addition to being an ISA Certified Arborist, he is a TCIA Certified Tree Safety Professional, Tree Appraisal Qualified by Arboriculture Canada and holds a Landscape Exterminator license. Michael sat on the Board of Director for the Ontario Commercial Arborist Association in 2022 and 2023. He worked at some of the top arboriculture companies in Southern Ontario before starting Vista Tree Management. Before that, he was an award-winning Executive Director in the nonprofit sector and published marketing consultant. On the rare days off, Michael can be found at home with his family - a loving wife, two daughters and two cats in Central Toronto.
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Great Reviews - Toronto Tree Service

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James and his team did an excellent job trimming my Walnut and other trees on my property. They removed all the branches and tidied up very nicely before they left. I will absolutely use Vista Tree Management again.
google
Michal was very pleasant to deal with during the quoting process and he conveyed the most knowledge from the 3 companies I approached. James and his crew did an excellent job with the removal of two trees and pruning of a large Manitoba Maple that totally covered my deck. Great to see sunlight again! James is very friendly and also knowledgeable. When the work was completed we did a walk through and he thoroughly explained what they did. The clean up was also fantastic.
Thanks very much!
google
VISTA do good work. I've used then for clients and all work gets done on time with an industry competitive budget. Their customers service is always excellent as well
google
Showed up on time. Scoped the work with us. Cleaned up nicely. Decent price. We will use them again.
google
Had great experience with Vista Tree for pruning of our tree. Super quick response to seamless execution. Highly recommend!
google
James was extremely helpful in helping us get the right tree for our backyard and was very friendly and professional
google
Outstanding Service! The arborist who came to provide an estimate gave very helpful with suggestions on how we should proceed to trim a very large tree - keeping in mind privacy with neighbours and ensuring shade over our home in the summer. He even took photographs to mark up to guide the crew coming to do the work. The crew showed up as scheduled and did its work very efficiently and we were extremely pleased with the results. Very reasonable pricing - great value for the money. Vista Tree Management will be my one and only supplier of these services in the future.
google
Vista Tree Management provided an excellent service of removing a large tree from a backyard of my property in Toronto. The whole process of quoting, and doing the job was very efficient, clearly explained and provided as promised. Their price for the serviced was very competitive.
google
My parents used their service to cut a tree down in their backyard. This tree was in such an awkward position where it was interfering with 2 other neighbors. James ensured me that the service would be done in a very professional manner and no damage would be done. Im glad to say he was right and had a group of 6 hard working individuals made the job done safely and efficiently. I would highly recommend this company for anyone needing tree removal.
google
Everything went smooth, from the initial assessment visit to the email communication to the job getting done! Thank you guys for your professionalism and quality work!!
google
Vista is an excellent company to deal with. The owners went above and beyond expectations to help deal with a unique situation. The guys who did the work were not only professional but also very polite. I will be using them again to help with other work in the future.
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We are very happy with all the work Vista Tree Management accomplished on our property.  James was very professional and gave us excellent advice concerning the trimming of our 12 foot cedar hedges and the pruning of our mature silver maple trees.  The crew was very friendly and hard working, they did a tremendous job on the work required and they did an excellent job with the clean up.  We would highly recommend Vista Tree services to our family and friends.  We will definitely use them again for all of our future projects.
John & Sonja
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They just did my front lawn, and boy, did they leave a lasting impression!

They were straightforward with the plan - clear and precise, ensuring that I was well informed of the process and outcome. The execution was meticulous and exceeded my expectations. Moreover, the cleanliness post-service was remarkable, leaving no trace of debris or disruption.

They were on time and was the epitome of friendly and cheerful—felt like I had friends over for a garden party!

Overall, their service was excellent at every stage. The inquiry, consultation, customer support, day-of service, follow-up, and payment process were all seamless.

I had peace of mind and very happy with Vista. I highly recommend them to those in need of reliable and thorough tree management service.
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I can’t say enough positive comment about James and Vista Tree. We were “ghosted” by 2 other tree management companies last fall. James came by and provided separate quotes for two very large trees on our property, both of which were a challenge to severely prune. They were a hazard and had to be addressed. The quotes were delivered the next day after assessment. The team was here on two separate days (April 30 and May 7). They were efficient, professional and most importantly safe. Hollis, the arborist who climbed the trees was friendly and communicated everything he was doing to the trees as well as any changes he made once he was up in the tree. The other members of the crew (Syd and Pete, I can’t remember the others) were professional and friendly. They cleaned everything up and were open to any suggestions we had regarding disposal of the wood. I would highly recommend this company. We will be having them back again to do more work, in the fall.
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Leaside neighbours take note!! Exceptional and professional service from start to finish. The team at Vista Tree Management responded to an urgent and critical situation. They were efficient, skilled and courteous. They handled the tree removal with precision and left our backyard immaculate. I highly recommend this team for your tree removal needs. They beat the competition by $1000+
google
James and his team did a great job pruning and trimming our old silver maple. James answered all my questions, provided expert advice and had his team do the work shortly after. The workers were professional, cleaned the space well, and were really efficient. Would definitely recommend Vista Tree management!
google
James was great! Very professional and you can definitely tell he knows what he’s talking about. They provided a quote in a timely manner booked us in for the tree pruning within a few days afterwards. The job was done quickly, professionally and the crew was friendly and polite. They cleaned up everything once the work was completed. Highly recommend!
google
Safe, fast, personable team - did a great job with tree trimming and removal! Note: the removal of a tree was not on the original scope and they still made it happen!
By the end of the day, I wouldn’t have even known they were there.
google
Very Happy with the professional advice and service we received from Vista which was promptly done. The follow-up to ensure we were happy with the work was appreciated.
google
Highly recommend! Michal came by first to take a look at things and provide the estimate. He’s obviously passionate about what he does and I learned a ton about my tree that I had no idea about! He gave me the confidence I needed to schedule the work. James and the “J-Crew” arrived on the scheduled day and were super friendly. The team did an amazing job with trimming my large overgrown maple and a fantastic cleanup job. My yard looked better than before they arrived. Will definitely have them back for future maintenance! Thanks Vista!
google
Great service from a great crew of people! The team was amazing from consulting on best ways to tackle the project, safely removing the trees and making sure the job was done to satisfaction. Would highly recommend and definitely use them again.
google
These guys are incredibly professional and by far the best arborist that have visited our home. And we've had many!

What impressed me the most was throughout their only concern was safety for my family and our property. With that and that only in mind they made all the cuts and changes that were required. When they left, I felt the most relief I felt about the trees in our backyard in a long time.

Truly appreciate your hard work and will highly recommend you in the future!
google
After doing a fair bit of research into Toronto-based arborists, we decided to go with Vista, and are very happy we did! From my first meeting with Mike when he came to give us a free quote, I was impressed with his knowledge and professionalism. Mike and his crew were punctual on the day they came to prune the deadwood from our very large Red Oak tree, answered my questions, and worked for 7 hours straight to get the job done. We were impressed from beginning to end, and wouldn’t hesitate to hire them again!
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These guys are the best! Very professional, easy to work with and very nice people.
James was amazing in communication and and arranging everything. He is a wonderful person and professional. I had 4 different companies for the quotes and Vista Tree were the best by every criteria I had in mind. After the work was done they cleaned the whole territory even the mess that was here before them. I would definitely recommend them and will call them again when I need any tree work done. Thanks!

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