White pine needles

White pine is a popular Christmas tree available for sale throughout the state. Photo courtesy the National Christmas Tree Association: www.realchristmastrees.org

Christmas trees are a traditional part of the festive holiday season, and for many people the fresh scent of a fresh cut tree invigorates the spirit of the season. Wayne Clatterbuck, a professor of forest management and silviculture with University of Tennessee Extension says the most popular Christmas trees grown in Tennessee are Virginia pine, eastern white pine, eastern red cedar, Fraser fir and Scotch pine. These and many other trees imported from other states will be available in all sorts of retail locations.

Clatterbuck offers these tips for consumers on choosing and maintaining a fresh cut Christmas tree:

1.  Measure the dimensions of your space. Don’t forget the ceiling height, of the area where the tree will be placed before buying the tree. This will help you select the right size and shape of tree.

The easiest method to obtain a fresh tree is to cut one from a Tennessee Christmas tree grower. For a directory of Christmas tree growers, visit the Tennessee Department of Agriculture website: http://www.picktnproducts.org/Flowers_trees/

Trees in Christmas tree lots may have been cut 4 to 6 weeks before they appear on the lot. Make sure to test the tree for freshness by placing a branch between the thumb and forefinger of your hand. Pull your hand toward you allowing the branch to slip through your fingers. The needles should bend but not break, and adhere to the branch. If they fall off in your hand, the tree may not be fresh enough. A second test is to lift the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it on the stump end. Some interior brown needles should fall, but if green needles fall in abundance, find another tree.

To keep your tree fresh, cut one-half to 1 inch of the bottom of the trunk. Immediately place the stump end in water. Keep water in the tree stand at all times. A cut tree can absorb 2 or 3 quarts of water the first day indoors. If the base of the tree dries out, sap from the tree will form a seal that will not allow water absorption. Water additives to enhance the “freshness” of the tree are not recommended. Only use clean water in your tree stand.

5.   The tree should be placed in a cool area. Keep your tree away from fireplaces, heat registers, radiators, heaters and televisions.

On another note, Clatterbuck recommends that homeowners inspect their Christmas tree lights for broken insulation or faulty sockets each year. Always unplug tree lights when you are away from home and before you go to bed.

The National Christmas Tree Association website is a wonderful source of information on Christmas trees:   http://www.realchristmastrees.org/dnn/default.aspx   Choose the Education subheading for information about Christmas trees.

For more information contact your local county UT Extension office.

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.



Wayne K. Clatterbuck, Professor, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, 865-974-7346, wclatter@utk.edu