Finding and Appreciating Locally-Grown Christmas Trees This Holiday Season

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It’s that most wonderful time of the year again! Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or another holiday this winter, it’s hard to look at a beautifully decorated Christmas tree without feeling festive. These icons of the holiday season herald this time of year when we gather to celebrate and to show our appreciation for one another. Although many of us choose to use a plastic or metal tree for convenience, you just can’t beat the atmosphere or smell that a real, freshly-cut Christmas tree brings to our homes.

Christmas trees are a big deal in North Carolina. Did you know that we are the 2nd highest producing state for Christmas trees? Our trees are also often selected to decorate the White House! While Fraser fir is the most popular species grown, there are several others that make great candidates for Christmas trees, such as white pine, Virginia pine, eastern red cedar, Leyland cypress, giant green arborvitae, and Arizona cypress (with two varieties often used being ‘Carolina Sapphire’ and ‘Blue Ice’). Each tree species varies in characteristics such as leaf color and texture, branch strength, needle retention, and fragrance. There are many resources on the NC State Extension website to help you with selecting a high-quality Christmas tree for your home.

To continue improving the quality of Christmas trees grown in NC, researchers at North Carolina State University are aiming to breed even better, top-notch trees. The Whitehill Lab’s Christmas Tree Genetics Program is working to develop treesA field of christmas trees. that grow at faster rates, produce better aromas, and are better able to handle the challenges of climate change, including temperature stress, drought, as well as pressure from pests and disease. They were even featured recently on NBC’s Nightly News!

There are many locations in and around Lee County that are selling NC-grown Christmas trees this year. You can use the Visit NC Farms App to find local farms, nurseries, and stores selling Christmas trees near you. Regardless of the tree species you select or whether you decide to purchase a cut or live tree (with the root ball intact, so you can replant it), Christmas trees need to be cared for to last the duration of the holiday season. To keep your tree fresh, use a tree stand that can accommodate at least a gallon of water and check it often to top off as needed (and using just water is fine, no need to add anything else!). When selecting the location to set up your tree in your home, find a nice shady spot and make sure to keep it away from heat sources such as heating vents, fireplaces, wood stoves, and radiators to prevent it from drying out and to reduce risk of it catching fire.

We hope today that you have learned something new about Christmas trees to share with your loved ones while you gather this holiday season. For more information about Christmas trees and sourcing them locally, please contact N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center and ask for Meredith Favre, our Local Foods Coordinator, for more information.