North Carolina trails only Oregon for Christmas trees

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 5, 2009

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
The Christmas season began this year early, almost two weeks before Thanksgiving. Home Shopping Network began selling mail-order tabletop fraser fir Christmas trees just after Halloween this year.
The live trees we buy today are picture perfect compared to Christmas trees 15 years ago. Tree producers have fine tuned the art of growing the perfect holiday tree with constant research and marketplace competition. North Carolina is second only to Oregon in the number of trees harvested and supplies 20 percent of live Christmas tree sales in the United States. Abundant rainfall and cooler-than-normal temperatures this summer have provided us with a banner crop of all species of Christmas trees this winter. Even with a depressed economy, Christmas tree sales are brisk.
Most of the trees sold in North Carolina are fraser firs. These trees comprise 95 percent of all Christmas trees grown in North Carolina; approximately 50 million trees on in 30,000 acres. However, white pine, Scotch pine and Virginia pine are also produced as live Christmas trees in North Carolina and also here in Rowan County. Fresh-cut trees are arriving daily at local garden centers and retail outlets throughout the county.
Selecting the perfect Christmas tree may take a little time and patience. The best way to judge a fresh-cut tree is to pinch the needles. They should be soft and aromatic. Shake the tree. If a large number of needles fall, go to another tree.
Keeping the tree fresh requires a couple of steps. First, trim about half an inch off the butt end of the trunk into water. Always make a new cut before placing the tree into the water reservoir. A typical Christmas tree will consume up to one quart of water a day.
Many homeowners want to plant fraser firs in their landscape as a permanent Christmas tree. Unfortunately, heat is a problem here and fraser firs will not grow in our landscape. These trees grow best at elevations above 3,000 feet. However, those who want a Christmas tree in the landscape can plant a balled and burlapped tree such as white pine, Norway spruce or Colorado blue spruce.
For more information about Christmas trees in North Carolina, go to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association Web site at www.ncchristmastrees.com.
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Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.

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