Got Nature? Blog

It’s that time of year again. The desperate rush to find the ‘perfect’ tree for your annual year-end celebration is very real. Unfortunately, you chose a tree last year that died within a month and was disappointingly dull. This year, you are going to do your homework to find the best tree available.

Home preparations:

  1. Tree Location: Select an area out of direct sunlight and away from the heating vents in your house for the tree. Excessive sunlight and heat will cause your tree to fade and dry out more quickly.
  2. Ceiling height: Measure your ceiling heights and take into account the height of your tree stand and the tree topper or you’ll have to make excessive cuts in your tree to adjust for the differences. Write down these measurements.
  3. Tree shape: Visualize the shape of the tree that best fits the space you have available (tall and thin, short and broad) and keep that in mind. Certain tree types are more expensive therefore knowing your budget will help ensure you purchase the perfect tree for your household. Measure the width of the space and write down these measurements.
  4. Tree stand: Anticipate needing to support your tree stand and acquire a piece of plywood that you can bolt the stand to keep it level. Measure the inside diameter of the tree stand and write down the measurements.

Choosing a tree farm:

  1. Buy from a local farm if at all possible. These trees are bred to be hardy and to remain fresh longer.

Bring to the farm:

  1. List of required measurements for your perfect tree.
  2. A large unbreakable ornament to view branch spacing (ensures your ornaments will hang straight).
  3. Measuring tape to measure prospective trees before getting them home.
  4. Thick gloves for handling your tree as the needles may be sharp and the bark rough on your bare hands.
  5. An old blanket that can cover the truck bed or car roof to protect it from sap.
  6. Rope, twine, bungee cords, and twist ties to secure the tree to the car if these items are not provided by the tree farm.

Species selection:

  1. Each tree species is different so careful selection is important: Soft needle species (pines, firs) are best for homes with small children while hard needle species (spruce) are the adult choice.
  2. Firs often have shorter needles, strong stems, and well-spaced branches making it easier to hang lights and decorations.Needle Charcteristics Table*click image to enlarge

At the tree farm:

  1. Check freshness: Bend a needle with your fingers (firs snap, pines ben).
  2. Gentle run your hand over the branch from inside to out or if possible, gently bounce the tree on the cut end. If a few interior needles come off, it is probably fresh; if many exterior needles fall off, choose a different tree.
  3. Remove and crush a few needles in your hand, if there is little scent choose another tree.
  4. The tree should have even coloration 360° around and needles should be fresh (shiny, green) and not old (dried out, brown).

When you and your tree get home:

  1. Protect Your Floor– Place a plastic or other waterproof covering on the floor where your tree will stand so you don’t ruin the carpet or get watermarks on hardwood flooring.
  2. Put down waterproof coverings or plastic sheeting under the tree skirt to prevent ruining the carpet or hardwood floor if water is spilled.
  3. Make a fresh cut at the base of the tree, take off ½” from the base so that tree can absorb more water (slows needle drop and helps maintain tree color) and immediately place the tree upright in the stand with lukewarm water.
  4. Trim any low-hanging branches that hit furniture or are too thin for ornaments parallel to the floor. Keep them in a bucket of water before using as decorations.
  5. Secure your tree to the wall or heavy furniture if you have pets and children that could knock it over or heavy ornaments that may sway the tree.
  6. Ensure that your tree stand always has water in it.
  7. Take a photo of your tree when set up and secured as a reminder for the following year.

After the holidays:

  1. Recycle your tree through your local waste management company.
  2. Trees can also be chipped for mulch. Never burn your tree because of the likelihood of starting a fire.

Examples of holiday tree types:

Examples of holiday tree types*click image to enlarge

Resources:
Which Real Indiana Christmas Tree Will You Select? – Got Nature?, Purdue FNR-Extension
Living Christmas Trees For The Holidays and Beyond, The Education Store
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store
Growing Christmas Trees, The Education Store

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on August 4th, 2017 in Christmas Trees, Plants | No Comments »

Seedlings​Indiana landowners have access to high quality, inexpensive trees and shrubs for conservation plantings through the DNR Division of Forestry nursery program. Order forms are now available on the Division of Forestry web page.

You may also be able to access hard-copy order forms at your local Purdue Cooperative Extension Service or Soil and Water Conservation District office. Submit your order form to the state nursery system prior to October 2, 2017 for the best chance to get the seedlings you need. The nursery will start processing orders on October 3rd and some species tend to sell out quickly. Orders will be accepted from October 3, 2017 to May 1, 2018. Seedlings will be available for pickup at the nursery or delivery for an additional fee in the Spring of 2018.

Seedlings from the DNR Division of Forestry Nursery program are for conservation plantings in Indiana. Private nurseries are also available to provide seedlings for conservation and other types of plantings, like Christmas trees or landscaping. For a listing of private nurseries and the products they offer, visit the National Nursery and Seed Directory.

Resources:
Instructions for Ordering Tree Seedlings – Indiana DNR Division of Forestry
National Nursery and Seed Directory – USDA Forest Service
Web Soil Survey – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Importance of Hardwood Tree Planting – The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Designing Hardwood Tree Plantings for Wildlife – The Education Store
Got Nature? – Purdue Forestry & Natural Resources

Lenny D Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

 


Posted on November 30th, 2016 in Christmas Trees, Forestry, How To | No Comments »

Tree ComparisonSo you are off to select a real Christmas tree this year? The tree characteristics that influence a family’s decision on what species to select can vary greatly. First, many families just want the experience of cutting their own tree. In this case, any appropriately priced and correct sized tree will do. Other consumers may be more demanding in terms of different tree characteristics. These include fragrance of the tree, rather the tree is cone or more globose shaped, needle length, and of course expected needle retention. Color is also to be considered, as well as branch stiffness and cost. These factors all come into play rather the purchaser is aware of them or not. They all interact in one way or another to define the perfect Christmas tree and to create great Christmas memories.

There are about 200 real Christmas Tree Farms producing trees on over 2,500 acres in Indiana. Each year about 90,000 Christmas trees are harvested in Indiana and over a billion dollars in sales are made throughout the U.S. Based on number of trees harvested, Indiana ranks seventh among all states. Most of the farms are choose and cut operations but some wholesale farms, particularly in Northern Indiana, also exist. Real Christmas trees are also sold at retail outlets.
Scotch pine, consisting of several varieties, remains the most commonly grown Christmas tree in Indiana. However, as transportation and communications improved the desire for other species such as the firs and spruces increased. Because climate and soil conditions vary substantially from one end of Indiana to the other, not all species will be found in one area and probably not all on one farm. However, most Indiana farms will have three or four species available.
Scotch pine and white pine are usually the least expensive trees whereas the true fir, are more costly. Douglas fir (not a true fir) and spruce are usually intermediate in cost. The pines will grow on most soils in Indiana and do not require fertilization. Fraser-fir and Canaan fir will only grow on well to moderately well drained soils, require fertilization, and are in relatively short supply as choose and cut trees, especially in southern Indiana. Some farms do not have true firs available in the field. Douglas-fir and spruce trees are intermediate in the care they require while in the field and thus usually intermediate in price. However, growers may have a surplus of a certain species or size of trees and reduce the price to assure that the trees will be sold.

Blue Spruce

Blue Spruce

To view the table that presents the common characteristics which help to determine a consumer’s preference for a certain species, as well as read the full article, view the Selecting an Indiana-Grown Christmas Tree publication.  However, in the end, it comes down to a family’s preference. The preferred species can also be determined by memories of past Christmases.
In addition to the most commonly produced Indiana species described in the publication, other species may be available. Noble fir and grand fir are shipped in from the west coast and balsam fir from the Lake States and Canada. Balsam fir has been a fairly popular species in the past. Some growers are experimenting with other species such as Korean fir, Turkish fir, and Nordman fir. These are beautiful trees but since it can take at least seven years for these trees to reach Christmas tree size, don’t expect to find many choose and cut trees available just yet.

For more information about Christmas trees or to locate a choose-and-cut tree farm near you, please visit the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers’ website,  or the National Christmas Tree Association website.

Resources:
A Choose-and-Cut Pine and Fir Christmas Tree Case Study, The Education Store
Living Christmas Trees For The Holidays and Beyond, The Education Store
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store
Growing Christmas Trees, The Education Store

Dr. Daniel Cassens, Professor of Wood Products
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on November 21st, 2016 in Christmas Trees, Forestry, How To | No Comments »

Dr. Dan Cassens-Christmas Tree FarmIndiana Christmas tree growers anticipate a busy 2016 sales season, especially with the public’s interest in purchasing environmentally friendly products. “Real Christmas Trees are renewable, recyclable, release less carbon then artificial trees and provide valuable family memories,” shares Daniel Cassens, Professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University.

The total sales season is only about four weeks long running from the day after Thanksgiving to just before Christmas. In the United States, over $1 billion in real trees will be sold. The vast majority of trees are sold Thanksgiving weekend and the first two weeks of December. Given that weather can also play a major role, producers make preparations for the sales season well ahead of time.

Christmas trees are available from three distinct types of sources in Indiana. Choose and cut operations are usually the best option if the customer is looking for a locally produced tree. At these locations, the family walks or rides together out into the field to select their choice from hundreds of trees, creating memories and a family experience which will last a life time. The tree is brought back to the sales barn. Many locations will shake out any loose needles from previous years and wrap the tree for easy handling and to prevent breakage. Or, many growers cut trees just as needed and place them in a sales barn for the customer to select from. This option is particularly popular when the weather becomes inclement.

Choose and Cut growers are now busy grooming the fields to make walking and tree selection easier, grading and pricing trees and preparing the sales barn for efficient operations. Many farms will also have a gift shop which needs stocking. Wreath and garland making from Indiana produced greens starts just as the first customers arrive.

Retail lots are another common method of selling Christmas Trees. Many year around retail merchants will order and sell Christmas Trees during the holiday season. Some retail lots are set up just for the Holiday Season. Many of these lots are fund raisers for nonprofit groups such as Boy Scouts, Optimists, Kiwanis Club and others. Some growers will also establish retail lots at locations other than where the trees are grown. The trees may be produced in Indiana or brought in from other states. Bringing trees from other states can allow the lot to offer a wider variety of species.

Indiana also has a few growers who wholesale trees to retail lots and even other growers. Wholesale growers are normally large efficiently run operations capable of selling thousands of trees. The trees are graded in the field and harvested in November just in time for delivery or pickup at Thanksgiving time. Some large customers will schedule a second purchase during the first week of December. This helps to insure tree freshness.

This year, create family memories by purchasing a real tree. Start planning now so you will be ready to have a nice day to spend in the field.

For more information about Christmas trees or to locate a choose-and-cut tree farm near you, please visit: Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association and the National Christmas Tree Association websites.

Resources:
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store
Selecting an Indiana-Grown Christmas Tree, The Education Store
Which Christmas Tree is Better For the Environment, Real or Artifical?, Got Nature? Blog
Growing Christmas Trees, The Education Store
A Choose-and-Cut Pine and Fir Christmas Tree Case Study, The Education Store

Dr. Daniel Cassens, Professor of Wood Products
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on November 30th, 2015 in Christmas Trees, Forestry, How To | No Comments »

Your real tree, once cut, is like fresh fruit in regards to its useful life expectancy. Just like fruit, care needs to be exercised in the trees selection and subsequent care according to Daniel Cassens, Professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University and member of the National Christmas Tree Association. Over half of the tree’s weight consists of water when first cut and it is important that the water content be maintained.

First, it is important to select a fresh tree. If you cut the tree at a choose-and-cut farm, it has to be fresh. If the tree is pre-cut, make sure the needles are flexible and firmly attached to the stem. Also, the tree should look “normal” and not crushed with broken branches and distorted or missing needles. Fresh looking trees indicate they have been well cared for.

Fresh cut trees should be kept out of the sun and wind to prevent accelerated dehydration. If the tree needs to be temporarily stored, place it in an unheated building or on the north side of a building where it will be less exposed. It will also help to place the tree in a bucket of water.

Just before setting up the tree, using an inexpensive bow or other saw trim about one-half inch from the base of the trunk. The cut should be perpendicular to the main stem. If the tree cannot be set up within 6 to 8 hours, make another cut. About 6 to 8 hours after the cut is made, the living cells begin to die and become blocked so the tree cannot take up water.

The tree should now be placed in a stand capable of supporting the tree mechanically. Make sure the stand has extended legs to prevent the tree from tipping. Do not whittle down the outside diameter of the tree base. The outer layers of wood are the most effective in taking up water. The stand should also be able to hold at least one quart of water for each inch of stem diameter. A typical 7 foot tree will require a stand with a water holding capacity of about two gallons. Check the water level each day and add cool water as needed. Make sure the butt end of the tree stem is always in water contact. Some stands do not allow the stem to reach the bottom of the water holding container. Trees tend to take large quantities of water each day for the first week or so and then slow down. Remember, if the tree runs out of water, the cells in the very butt or exposed end will become blocked and subsequent water uptake will be prevented.

Keep the displayed tree away from any heat sources such as fireplaces, heaters, heat vents and direct sunlight. Lowering the room temperature will also slow the drying process.

Some tree lights can also produce excessive heat. Small lights or those that produce low heat will also help to reducing localized drying of the tree.

For more information about Christmas trees or to locate a choose-and-cut tree farm near you, please visit the National Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Resources:
A Choose-and-Cut Pine and Fir Christmas Tree Case Study, The Education Store
Selecting an Indiana-Grown Christmas Tree, The Education Store
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store

Daniel Cassens, Professor of Wood Products
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on November 27th, 2015 in Christmas Trees, Forestry, How To | No Comments »

The debate over rather the use of a real tree or an artificial tree is better for the environment continues, especially as the Holiday season nears. Real tree growers point out that their product is renewable, each species has its own characteristic odor, consumes carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen, can be recycled, provides wildlife habitat and creates jobs in rural America. Artificial trees contain non biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead. Most artificial trees are made in China and must be shipped long distances to the United States. On the other hand the artificial tree industry points out that their product can be reused and thus saves several real trees from being harvested. The industry goes on to claim that their trees do not need fertilizers or pesticides and do not create a mess or hassle. These are just examples of claims being made by two distinctly different industries. Considering the entire production cycle for real and artificial trees, it is difficult to determine which type of tree is best for the environment, based on scientific based data. Conducting a “Life Cycle Assessment” (LCA) for real and artificial trees would be one approach to answer this question.

Real Christmas trees, like all green plants, consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. The carbon dioxide is absorbed through the leaves or needles, combined with sunshine and water to make food and release oxygen. This process is called photosynthesis. The “carbon” is stored in the wood, needles, and leaves and constitutes about one-half of the dry weight. If the trees are burned or otherwise decomposed the “stored” or sequestered carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Other existing or planted trees absorb the carbon making trees carbon neutral. Some of the carbon is also stored in the soil. Growing trees also require some carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

Artificial trees use petroleum based products. Petroleum based products are ancient, stored sources of carbon dioxide and if burned as in the case of gasoline, release new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Transportation becomes a significant source of carbon release regardless of the tree being real or artificial.

Carbon dioxide is important because it traps heat from the earth’s surface. This is often referred to as the “greenhouse effect”. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been increasing since the late 1800’s and scientific data shows a particularly significant increase since the 1960’s. “Global warming” is the term being used to describe an increase in the world’s average surface temperature as a result of more heat being trapped.

“Cradle to Grave” or “Life Cycle Assessments” are used to summarize all of the positive and negative activities associated with developing a product and delivering it to the consumer. LCA’s become complicated, costly and the results are dependent on exactly which set or sets of circumstances are considered. Only one documented study on real and artificial trees is available. A Canadian Environmental consulting firm, Ellipsos has completed a LCA for both real and artificial trees. (Ellipsos/Strategists in Sustainable Development)

In this study, the carbon balance for an individual 7 foot high real Christmas tree was about +24 Kg (53 lbs) of CARBON DIOXIDE after all factors such as labor, use of machinery, transportation, and other inputs are considered. The tree was grown south of Montreal, Canada. It was assumed that the tree was grown in the nursery for four years and in the field for 11 years. In Indiana, two year old nursery stock and about 7 years in the field to produce a 7 foot tree are more typical and would probably result in less carbon being released. The “+” indicates that the overall process of growing a tree is carbon positive (i.e. carbon is released).

The carbon balance for a similar six foot artificial tree was about +48Kg (106 lbs) of CARBON DIOXIDE or twice that of the real tree. Most of the positive carbon release in this case is due to the manufacturing of the tree and transportation of the tree by boat from China to Vancouver and then by train to Montreal, Canada.

For comparison purposes, the average American car emits about 1.5 tons or 3000 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere on a yearly basis. (Green Car Congress)

The Ellipsos report assumed that the real tree would be burned for fuel at the end of the life cycle, thus releasing all of the stored carbon in the tree. If the real tree is recycled for mulch or fish habitat or other uses the carbon budget would be closer to zero at least until the tree finally decomposes. The study goes on to conclude that considering climate change impact along with environmental and public health impact, real trees appear to be a better choice for a responsible customer and that artificial trees must be displayed for more than 20 years in order for it to compare favorably with the real Christmas tree.

The assessment method used for the life cycle analysis groups problems into four damage oriented impacts areas on the environment. These are 1) climate change, 2) human health, 3) ecosystem quality, and 4) resource depletion. The results for the Ellipsos report are interesting. Considering climate change, the real tree has much less impact due to a smaller amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere as discussed above. The LCA also considers the products impact on human health, ecosystem quality and resource depletion. Considering human health, the artificial tree is a slightly better choice than the real tree. Considering ecosystem quality, the artificial tree is a better choice. This is likely due to the use of land for plantations and associated cultural practices (fertilizer, pesticide, irrigation) for real trees. In regards to bothclimate change (global warming) and resource depletion (use of non-renewable energy and mineral extraction), the real tree is a better choice than the artificial tree. The Ellipsos report titled “Comparative life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Artificial vs Natural Christmas trees” can be viewed by Googling “Ellipsos report 1043-RF3-09.”

Both real and artificial trees have positive and negative attributes. Based on this study, the real tree has less effect on global warming than the artificial tree ie less carbon is released. The amount of carbon released by either the real or artificial tree is relatively small compared to that released by the average car over the course of the year. To reduce carbon production, consumers might be better advised to limit (plan ahead) the use of the car over the holiday season.

For more information about Christmas trees or to locate a choose-and-cut tree farm near you, please visit the National Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Other resources:
A Choose-and-Cut Pine and Fir Christmas Tree Case Study, The Education Store
Selecting an Indiana-Grown Christmas Tree, The Education Store
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store

Daniel Cassens, Professor of Wood Products
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on November 25th, 2015 in Christmas Trees, Forestry, How To | 1 Comment »

A real Christmas tree is an important part of a holiday celebration for many Hoosier households. Christmas TreeConsumers have several choices for purchasing a real tree, including pre-cut trees at retail outlets or seasonal sales locations, choose-and-cut trees at Christmas tree farms, or even live trees that can be replanted after the holidays. Purdue Extension offers two publications that can help you select and care for your tree: Tips for First-Time Buyers of Christmas Trees provides advice and direction on how to set up and care for your tree to improve safety and enjoyment. Selecting an Indiana-Grown Christmas Tree provides details on the characteristics of different species of real Christmas trees available in Indiana, as well as care instructions for cut and live Christmas trees.

Pre-cut real Christmas trees are available at many retail outlets like garden centers, supermarkets, or seasonal sales locations. If you are looking for local choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms you can consult local media and advertising outlets or the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association. Some garden centers and Christmas tree farms may also offer live trees for sale.

If you are considering growing your own Christmas trees for personal use or sale, the Extension publications Growing Christmas Trees and A Choose-and-Cut Pine and Fir Christmas Tree Case Study outline economic and management considerations for growing Christmas trees.

Find more Christmas Tree Facts, Species and Tips:
Got Nature? – Christmas Trees category

Lenny Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center
Purdue Department of Forestry & Natural Resources


Christmas tree.The DNR shares the best way to discard Christmas trees: taking them to a local recycling site, putting it in your backyard to provide winter shelter for birds and other wildlife or chopping it up for firewood. DNR states that Hoosiers need to think twice before they toss their Christmas tree into a nearby lake or pond. View RTV6 ABC Indy Channel for more information.

Resources
Got Nature? Christmas Tree posts
Christmas Tree Selection, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDNR)
The Education Store, Purdue Extension publications (Search “Christmas tree”)

Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDNR)


Posted on December 31st, 2014 in Christmas Trees, Wildlife | No Comments »

This question and answer were provided by Purdue Extension: In the Grow.

Question: I have small evergreen trees planted in my yard. They are the small, slow-growing type. They are around eight years old. Every fall, the yellow jackets start swarming around them, crawling in and out of the inside of the tree. They don’t seem to hurt it, but it looks like they are trying to find something, acting like a honey bee on a flower. But these have no flowers. They don’t bother us as long as we don’t get too close. Could you tell me why this is happening? – C.K., Shoals, Indiana

Answer: Our Purdue entomologists advise that yellow jackets commonly scavenge for food in the fall, and it is likely they are attracted to tree resin or sap that has some sugar content. Scavenging yellow jackets are less aggressive than those that are protecting a nest. And you are correct; they will not harm the trees and will generally not attack unless provoked. We commend you for aiming for a peaceful coexistence!

View the full post at Purdue Extension’s: In the Grow website.

Resources
Social Bees and Wasps, The Education Store
Indiana Beekeepers Swarm List, Indiana DNR
Department of Entomology, Purdue University

Purdue Extension: In the Grow


Posted on December 22nd, 2014 in Christmas Trees | No Comments »

Daniel CassensIt was thought that the Christmas trees this season wouldn’t look as luscious and green as they usually do because of the drought in 2012. Yet with the rain and cooler weather, the strongest trees prevailed and grew beautifully. There are different trees that one could put up in their home, but the best are fir trees and Scotch pine because they last the longest.

Dan Cassens, Professor of Wood Products, owns a tree farm in West Lafayette, Indiana. He offers a few tips to people who will be using a real Christmas tree in their home.

  • Size of the room, size of the tree: Cassens said that buying a tree that is too tall for a room can be wasteful because you will end up trimming the tree to make it fit, thereby spending more on the tree than what was necessary.
  • Selecting a species: Once the right size of the tree has been determined, decide which species you want.
  • Straightness of tree trunk: Fir trees are typically a straight-growing tree. Scotch pines tend to have some crooks in them.
  • Freshness of tree: Insects or mechanical problems can cause yellowness. If a tree has any yellow spots, it is best to avoid them unless they are in a place that could be cut out.
  • Base of tree: It is best to have a clean 6-8 inches to put into the handle of the tree stand. This will prevent having to cut any limbs that would leave bare spots in the base of the tree.

View the full article at the Purdue Ag News page.

Resources
Christmas Tree Posts, Got Nature?
National Christmas Tree Association
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store

​Dan Cassens, Professor of Wood Products
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

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