Fun Facts and Figures about Christmas Trees

Questions We’re Often Asked: Christmas Trees

By —— Bio and Archives--December 30, 2017

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Readers of these columns will be gratified to learn that people are coming back to the natural tree. Whether it’s plastic pollution, pricey artificial imports or simple nostalgia for the real thing, everywhere sales of live pines, spruce, firs and hemlock are climbing.

And why not? Christmas tree farming is environmentally sound. The stands, often on land little suited for anything else, provide a welcoming habitat for vast array of wildlife as well as employment in areas where such opportunities are often scarce on the ground. Cut-your-own operations not only offer an additional source of revenue to tree farmers but to surrounding communities where the visitors stop to shop. Once home, they bring joy and happiness before finally ending their days biodegraded as municipal mulch.

The same cannot be said for the competition. The pollution caused by plastics has reached down almost to the point of politicians taking practical steps to reduce the menace. Nor to these ersatz imitations offer much in the way of local employment. China yes, and the contaminating container ships that deliver them en masse to further shores. And surely there is nothing more ironic than communist China not recognizing religion but profiting from a major event of Christianity? So you’ll never have to buy another tree? Think again—artificial trees last an average of six years before ending up in landfill.

What tree to purchase? Visit local lots and you’ll most likely be limited to the two or three species most popular in your neck of the woods. These could be White spruce, White pine, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, Hemlock (Balsam fir), Douglas fir, Fraser Fir, or Noble fir. Any and all may have taken up to 10 years to reach the desired six to seven feet in height.

A word of warning, however: potted Picea are not environmentally practical. They may tolerate a week or so in the home but then must be planted outside. Is your yard large enough to support what, in the case of a white spruce (P. glauca), become a hundred-foot conifer? Where will next year’s tree go? And the next one . . . and the next . . . and the next?

Fun Facts and Figures:

  • Canadian Christmas Trees: valued at over $50 million annually; more than 1,700,000 trees were exported to the US—half from Quebec.
  • Canadian Christmas Tree Farms: almost 2,400 for a total of over 28,000 hectares
  • Big Business: in the US, 25 to 30 million trees are sold annually from about 15,000 farms, worth about $1 billion.
  • Tallest Christmas Tree: to date 73 metres (238 feet) artificial tree at Galle Face Green, Colombo, Sri Lanka; a 67.36m (221ft) Douglas fir at Northgate Shopping Center, Seattle holds the record for the real thing according to Guinness World Records
  • Worse Christmas Tree: many claims but to date, Cardiff, Wales leads the pack with an artificial tree
  • How Old Are Christmas Trees? First printed reference is from German inn 1531
  • First Decorated Christmas Tree? Riga and Tallinn, the capitals of Latvia and Estonia, have waged a feud over which was the site of the world’s first decorated Christmas tree, according to The New York Times. Answer: Riga in 1510
  • Christmas Tree Lights: first mass-produced 1890 after being thought up eight years earlier by Edward Johnson, assistant to Thomas Edison
  • Toilet Brush Trees: US Addis Brush Company first made artificial trees in 1930 with brush bristles died green
  • Worse Christmas Song: O Christmas Tree is rated the second worse seasonal song, although the original German song O Tannebaum doesn’t refer to Christmas: but to fir trees as a whole (The worse is I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus).

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Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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