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  • Martin Ford

Christmas Trees – A Good Idea or Not?

Why do we choose to cut down a young tree and take it indoors each Christmas? Is it because we have a love of trees and want to have one with us during this time of celebration – and if so, why not a deciduous tree?

christmas tree and lights
Photo by Philippe AWOUTERS on Unsplash

Tradition plays a primary role of course in choosing an evergreen, but we know the tree will not live unless its roots have also been lifted, and even then, it needs to be planted outside quickly after a few weeks, as being in a warm living room stresses a small pot-bound root system. Is it because the tree's presence has the significance of reconnecting us to nature – which is particularly important for young children, and to all of us during the depths of winter when spending time outdoors is more limited. Whatever the positives might be, the negatives are that the tree is no longer in its natural setting where it can grow into a mature tree, with all the benefits that we know trees give us, especially of value in city settings. It has become an ornament. The primary argument for bringing these trees indoors is that we enjoy the tree. But in this day and age we also recognize that a tree's presence is more important in the ecosystem, and even though it will be mulched afterwards and thus provide organic matter for the soil, the five to ten years that it has been settling into its growing space is lost.

Yes, new trees will be planted as replacements because, as we have found out this year, there is a shortage of Christmas trees, and this increased demand dictates that new trees be planted to be ready for customers in five plus years' time.

The reason the supply is unable to meet this year's demand is because so many young trees have been lifted by nurseries with their roots and sold as landscape features to grow within city spaces, rather than waiting to be sold as Christmas trees. Christmas tree plantations planted five years ago are being lifted and transplanted to fulfill the rapidly increasing demand for long-term tree planting in gardens and naturalization projects around cities.

In the short term, this means our desire to have a real tree in our living room may be thwarted. But the worldwide increase in demand for trees of all kinds will be satisfied within five to ten years since we have already begun expanding the volume of nursery plantings, sometimes doubling them, to meet this increased interest and commitment from the public.

A Christmas tree is a living entity when its roots are in the ground. After we have lifted it and brought it inside as part of tradition and celebration, we are left with the knowledge that it will no longer continue its presence in the natural world, and so maybe the Christmas tree we celebrate with this year (or next year) will be the one in our garden or growing in a park. Or the one we planted in the spring!


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