Get a Healthy Christmas Tree and Help Keep Your Neighborhood Trees Healthy
Many species of trees important to holiday traditions are being harmed by invasive insects. Here are five tips for how to help minimize the damage.
NEW HAVEN, CT | December 13, 2013
For many, trees are an important part of the Christmas tradition and warm memories. It’s the rare time when we bring whole trees into our homes. We also may have a warm fire of logs in the fireplace. Christmas breakfast might include syrup from maple trees. Presents are wrapped in paper from trees, and many of our gifts are made of wood.
Unfortunately, many of the trees that provide these traditions are under attack from non-native, invasive insects.
For example, fir trees are very popular Christmas Trees, and several species of fir trees are under attack from the balsam woolly adelgid, a tiny bug that distorts tree growth that can kill the tree.
Maple trees, which provide syrup for our pancakes, are under attack from the non-native invasive Asian longhorned beetle. This insect kills maples (and many other species of trees), which could seriously impact the maple syrup producers in the Northeast.
And, maybe one of those presents under the Christmas tree is made from white ash—a baseball bat, a sled or toboggan? An insect called the emerald ash borer is killing ash trees, and folks who grow trees for baseball bats are finding they need to consider other types of trees to make bats.
Each of us can help, though, during the holiday season. Here are our five tips for getting a healthy Christmas tree and keeping your neighborhood trees healthy:
- Buy real, not plastic. When you support tree farms, you support businesses that provide the clean air and water we need. “In Connecticut, we have the opportunity to go directly to the Christmas tree farms, meet the farmers, pick out a tree and experience that connection to the land,” said Bill Toomey, the Conservancy’s Connecticut-based North American Director of Forest Health Protection. “This creates wonderful traditions and gives us a chance to share those traditions with our children just as our parents did with us. It helps to support these farm families and the local economy.”
- Buy reputable, meaning a tree from a local, well-established tree seller. That could be your local a nearby nursery, local hardware store or some other well-established business. An established seller is far more likely to have proper permits and inspections for their trees. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s CT Grown Program provides information about Connecticut Christmas tree growers.
- Buy resilient, healthy trees. Run your hand along the branches— they should be flexible and springy. If many needles are falling off that suggests a tree that was cut too soon or is unhealthy. A dry tree may not last very long and can create a fire hazard in your home.
- Dispose of your tree safely. When Christmas is over, don’t just toss it in the backyard to sit around. If there are any invasive bugs on the tree, - they may spread to trees in your yard or neighborhood. Search for local municipal tree collectors who will properly chip and dispose of the tree.
- Don’t move firewood! Remember that warm toasty fire? Make sure those logs came from a nearby area. Transporting firewood for long distances can spread invasive pests and start a new infestation in your neighborhood. Instead, buy your firewood from a local, reputable seller or burn it on the property where it was cut. (This also applies to camping. When you go camping, don’t bring your firewood with you. Buy it at or near the campsite.) Visit www.dontmovefirewood.org for more information.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at www.nature.org. To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit www.nature.org/global. To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.