The case for choosing a live Christimas tree


Now that we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas is just around the corner, many folks will be selecting their annual tree to adorn their apartment or home.

It’s been said many times before and will be repeated again and again, “A traditional Christmas begins with a real tree.”

Most of us buy a particular kind of tree based on family tradition. If we grew up with a spruce, we buy a spruce tree. If our family had firs, we buy firs. If we cut a cedar out of the pasture, chances are we still cut a cedar out of the pasture and bring it into our house for Christmas.

When I was a youngster my family only considered one option when buying a Christmas tree—a real pine or fir tree. That all changed when a U.S.-based toilet bowl brush manufacturer, the Addis Brush Co., created an artificial tree from brush bristles. Hence, the prototype for modern artificial trees.

Today, some people feel guilty about cutting down a new tree each year. They feel better buying an artificial tree they can use over and over. Cost, convenience and environmental impact are other reasons consumers opt for an artificial tree.

Given the current economic climate, artificial trees may be especially appealing for their investment value when compared with the recurrent, annual expense of a real Christmas tree. Their convenience is also appealing to consumers as they don’t need watering, don’t leave pine needles all over the floor and transportation from tree farm to home isn’t an issue.

That said, real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. While artificial trees contain nonbiodegradable plastics and metals, real Christmas trees provide the oxygen for millions of people.

A single farmed tree absorbs more than one ton of CO2 throughout its lifetime. With more than 350 million real Christmas trees growing in U.S. tree farms alone, you can imagine the yearly amount of carbon sequestering associated with the trees. Additionally, each acre of trees produces enough oxygen for the daily needs of 18 people.

This year, about 33 million American families will celebrate the holidays with the fragrance and beauty of a real Christmas tree. There are about 1 million acres in production for Christ­mas trees.

The top Christmas tree producing states are Oregon, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Mich­i­gan, Washington and Wisconsin. The top-selling Christmas trees are the balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, Noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginian pine and white pine.

More than 100,000 people are employed full or part time in this industry that pumps $1 billion into the U.S. economy.

While it can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of average height (6 feet), the average growing time is seven to 10 years.

The secret to keeping a Christ­mas tree alive and healthy when you bring it into your home is to make a fresh cut on the bottom of your tree. When you place the tree in your stand make sure it has plenty of water.

While you can spend money on additives that claim to keep the tree fresh, forgo the expense and just add fresh water every day. Nothing works better.

As far as choosing a particular tree, pick a tree you like.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone has an opinion on what tree is the best. I like them all—firs, spruce, pine. The important thing is that the trees are watered after you cut them. That will keep the color looking rich and the tree looking beautiful.

So whatever tree you choose, real or artificial, have fun finding the perfect one for your family.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.


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