Blackwelder column: N.C. Christmas trees some of the best

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 28, 2008

A large truck load of fraser fir Christmas trees bound for the city passed me on the interstate this past weekend.
Years ago, Christmas trees were erected only a couple of days before Christmas. Today, the Christmas holiday season begins before Thanksgiving Day as the kickoff for Christmas trees sales.
The live Christmas trees we buy today are picture perfect as compared to trees 15 years ago. Constant research and competition for the perfect tree make North Carolina one of the national leaders in the Christmas tree industry.
North Carolina produces about 5 million holiday trees a year. N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, speaking at Farm City Day last week, said that Oregon is jealous because North Carolina “leads the nation in Christmas tree production.”
A North Carolina Christmas Tree is also bound for the White House, for the 11th time, more than from any other state. It’s a 20-foot fraser fir from Ashe County. Salisbury’s Mike Crosby is delivering the North Carolina Christmas tree for the White House’s Blue Room today.
The situation with our slow economy is not manifested in Christmas tree sales. The N.C. Christmas Tree Association reports that most of the crop has been sold, with less than 5 percent of this year’s trees still available.
But more rain and cooler summer temperatures this year have produced a banner crop this season.
Below are a few facts that may be of interest to those in search of perfect tree.
– Historians believe that the Egyptians and Romans used greenery to decorate homes in December. However, most agree that the tradition was started more than 400 years ago in Germany.
– By 1900, one in five American families decorated trees during Christmas. By 1930, nearly every home became a part of this tradition.
– North Carolina supplies 19 percent of live tree sales in the United States.
– Christmas trees produced in North Carolina are shipped to all 50 states, as well as countries as far away as Japan and Bermuda.
– The North Carolina fraser fir has been chosen as the nations best Christmas tree for the White House eight times.
– It takes 12 years on the average to grow a fraser fir, about eight years to grow a white pine Christmas tree.
– Fraser firs comprise 90 percent of all Christmas trees grown in North Carolina ó 50 million trees on 25,000 acres.
– White pine, Scotch pine and Virginia pine are also produced as live Christmas trees in North Carolina and here in Rowan County.
– The best way to judge a fresh cut tree is to pinch the needles. They should be soft and aromatic. Shake the tree. If needles fall, go to another tree.
– Trim 1/2 to 1 inch off the butt end of the trunk before putting it into water. Always make a new cut before placing in the stand.
– A typical Christmas tree will consume up to one quart of water a day.
– Fraser firs grow best at elevations above 3,000 feet. Unfortunately, fraser firs do not grow in our landscape here in Rowan County.
– Those who want a balled and burlapped tree should choose white pine, Norway spruce or Colorado blue spruce. Fraser firs will not thrive here.
– There are more than 400 choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms in North Carolina, including Rowan County.
For more information about Christmas trees, go to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association Web site at http://nc christmas
Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County; call 704-216-8970.Web site: