Tis the season! Christmas music fills the air, houses light up, and cars tote wrapped Christmas trees home for decorating. Whether you buy it or cut it yourself, you are supporting U.S. agricultural producers with your purchase of a real tree. Christmas trees are considered a crop, just like corn and soybeans, and in North America there are more than 15,000 growers. The top states are Oregon, Pennsylvania, the state up north, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Washington, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Ohio ranks in the top 10.
The Christmas tree is thought to have started as a German tradition, which spread to Europe and America in the 1800s, and has been sold commercially in the U.S. since then. Towards the end of the 1800s, the artificial tree appeared. These were made from metal wire covered with bird feathers such as goose and turkey, and then dyed green. In the 1930s, the first artificial brush tree was created by the Addis Brush Company, using the same machinery that made its toilet brushes. In 1950, the company patented its aluminum “Silver Pine” with a revolving light source and colored gels. Those of us “vintage” folks may remember these.
There are plenty of reasons to celebrate with a real tree:
• Real trees are a renewable resource. For every tree that is harvested, the farmer plants one to three new seedlings to ensure a constant supply. Your purchase supports the local economy and small tree farms in the U.S. It can take about seven to 12 years to grow the average 6-foot tree.
• While they are growing, the trees absorb carbon dioxide, provide us with oxygen, hold valuable topsoil in place, beautify our surroundings, and absorb stormwater. One acre of Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen needs for 18 people.
• Real trees can be recycled and reused. We put our tree outside to offer shelter and food for the birds. We then festoon it with toilet paper rolls and conifer cones covered in peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. Popcorn (plain only please) and cranberry garland can go out with the tree to feed the birds as well. Many communities pick up holiday trees and grind them into mulch for garden beds and paths. Sunken trees make excellent fish habitat in ponds and lakes. Your tree can also be the foundation for a wildlife brush pile for songbirds and mammals. (https://ohiodnr.gov/wps/portal/gov/odnr/discover-and-learn/safety-conservation/about-ODNR/news/Recycle-Christmas-Trees-as-Fish-Wildlife-Habitat) Smaller trees may be easily broken down to fit in your compost system or check out www.dkmm.org/yard-waste-composting/ for facilities nearby.
• Real trees are, well, real! Artificial trees mainly come from China and are made from metal and petroleum-based plastic, both nonrenewable resources. Artificial trees are not biodegradable and will remain in landfills for centuries.
• Real trees give lasting memories. It’s hard to pass up the fun of bundling up, traipsing through the rows, and debating the merits of tall and narrow versus short and plump, while sipping hot chocolate in search of the perfect tree.
To learn about tree varieties, how to select and care for your tree, and find a farm near you, visit the Ohio Christmas Tree Association at ohiochristmastree.org. The Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District wishes you a safe and happy holiday season!
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to https://soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/.