By Paul Duncan, Whistler Naturalists
What is your Christmas tree tradition? For some, tradition means wiping-off the dusty box that holds the artificial tree. For others, it means tromping off into the woods, or likely to the nearest hydro lines, to harvest a cute Charlie Brown tree. And for still others, it means visiting the local Boy Scout tree stand. Whatever your tradition is, keep on reading to learn more about Christmas trees.
About 40 million Christmas trees are cut annually in North America. Most of these trees are farm-grown. Tree farms in the Fraser Valley grow primarily Douglas-firs, and true fir species and varieties. Douglas-firs are usually cheaper, while the true firs, such as noble fir ( Abies procera ), Fraser fir ( Abies fraseri ), subalpine fir ( Abies lasiocarpa ), and grand fir (Abies grandis ), to name a few, are usually more expensive. True firs, are, however, often worth the extra cost. Their soft, handsome needles are beautifully aromatic and tend to hang on longer than most other types of trees needles.
Spruces, although they often have superb form and colour, are essentially useless, in my opinion, as Christmas trees. With pointed needles, which draw blood quicker than a hypodermic needle, these trees can give Santa a really good thrashing. Also, spruce trees tend to dry very quickly and consequently shed needles, making them a potential fire hazard. This tree is best left outside.
If youre cutting your own tree near Whistler, your best choices are Douglas-fir, amabilis fir, western white pine, or lodgepole pine. The best place to find a good tree is usually in the high-end neighbourhoods, such as Blueberry Estates or the Benchlands. Actually, the midnight raid from a private or municipal garden puts you in league with the Grinch. So, dont do it . Instead, phone your local Forest District office to get a free use permit to cut a Christmas tree, a forest officer will gladly help you.
When purchasing your tree, select a fresh one. If the needles feel crunchy or fall easily, keep looking. Pretty simple. Whether you purchase or cut your own tree, take good care of it. Before bringing your tree inside, re-cut the bottom of the tree. Sap, dirt and drying will seal the water conducting cells (tracheids) in the trunk and re-cutting exposes a fresh surface that is better able to conduct water. Once inside, place the tree in a container that is sturdy and can hold a large volume of water. Never let your tree run dry and keep the room cool if possible. For a comprehensive account of Christmas tree care, a visit to the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association website is a must at www.christmastree.net .
If you are environmentally conscientious, you may chose to purchase a live, potted tree. Live trees are great. However, they should only be brought in for a very short period of time. Keeping a live tree inside for longer than a few days is harmful to it. Also, some planning is required as a live tree does grow and will need planting outside the following spring.
Lastly, do remember to recycle your Christmas tree. Phone your local government to find out where to take your tree for recycling. Happy tree hunting!
Upcoming Events :
January 6 Monthly Bird Walk . Join the first bird walk of 2001 which meets at the base of Lorimer Road at 8 a.m. Contact Michael Thompson (932-5010) for more information.
Web sites and Contacts: For a historical account of the Christmas tree, visit www.worldbook.com/fun/holidays/hlml/thetree.htm . For a free use permit, contact the Squamish Forest District at 1-604-898-2100.
Sightings and Memberships: NatureSpeak is prepared by the Whistler Naturalists. To become a member or to report noteworthy sightings of mammals, birds, or other species, contact Lee Edwards (905-6448; e-mail: email@example.com).