The 2013 tab in the U.S. for fir, spruce and balsam Christmas trees is $1 billion. That's flat against last year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), but the unit count of trees sold fell 20% to 24.5 million.

NCTA comprise 700 active member farms, 29 state and regional associations, and 4,000 affiliated businesses that grow and sell Christmas Trees or provide related supplies and services.

While Americans increasingly opt for artificial trees, which last for years and come pre-wired with LED lights, Christmas tree growers have hoped to spark renewed interest in natural trees by bringing to market several non-native species, with advice from Michigan State University's Christmas Tree experts.

These species include Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana) and Turkish fir (Abies bornmuelleriana) and Korean fir (Abies koreana). (In a video below on Christmas tree species, Dr. Bert Cregg of Michigan State University gives an overview of Korean fir.) The trees are more aromatic and vibrant than blue spruce, scotch pine and balsam fir trees that dominate sales.

Christmas Trees: New Species Enter the MarketThe White House this year selected an 18½ foot tall, 11-foot wide Douglas fir, grown by the Botek family,  second-generation Christmas tree farmers from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA. It was delivered on a horse-drawn cart to the White House, Nov. 29.

Since 1966, members of the NCTA have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room. Each year, NCTA hosts a national tree contest, at which growers, industry experts and consumers vote to select the Real Christmas Tree grower who will provide the official White House Christmas Tree.

A Blue Spruce Christmas Tree grown by John Wyckoff, of Wyckoff’s Christmas Tree Farm in Belvidere, NJ , was been named Grand Champion of the National Christmas Tree Association’s (NCTA) 2013 National Christmas Tree Contest.

As growers of the Grand Champion tree, the Wyckoff’s earned the right to present the official 2013 White House Christmas Tree this season. Since 1966, NCTA members have presented the official Christmas Tree for display in the White House Blue Room.