Blackwelder column: Christmas tree facts

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 9, 2011

Over the Thanksgiving holidays, huge truckloads of fraser fir Christmas trees were bound for many parts of the state. Years ago, Christmas trees were erected only a few days before Christmas; now Thanksgiving Day initiates the first day for Christmas tree sales.
Live trees produced today are picture perfect compared to trees 15 years ago. Constant research and competition for the perfect tree make North Carolina one of the leaders in the Christmas tree industry. Below are a few facts that may be of interest those in search of the perfect tree.
• The tradition of decorating Christmas trees was started over 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 is second only to Oregon in Christmas tree production, supplying 19 percent of live tree sales in the United States.
• Christmas trees produced in North Carolina are shipped to all 50 states, including countries as far away as Japan and Bermuda.
• The North Carolina fraser fir has been chosen as the nation’s best Christmas tree for the White House eight times.
• It takes 12 years on average to grow an average 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 — 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.
• Fraser firs grow best at elevations above 3,000 feet.
• 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 a quarter-inch to a half-inch off the butt end of the trunk into water. Always make a new cut before placing into the stand.
• A typical Christmas tree will consume up to one quart of water a day.
• Those who want a balled and burlap-wrapped 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. The selection is wonderful and prices reasonable.
For more information about Christmas trees in North Carolina, log on the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association website at
Darrell Blackwelder is the county extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970, on Facebook or online at