University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

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THE FACTS ABOUT CHRISTMAS TREES

Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor Emeritus
University of Vermont

Knowing a few facts about Christmas trees and their production will give you a new appreciation of them this holiday season, and why many prefer them over artificial ones.
--About 25 to 30 million real trees are sold in this country every year.
--Real trees are grown on farms like other crops.  To ensure enough trees for harvest, growers plant on average three seedlings for every tree harvested. 
--Christmas tree farms stabilize soil, protect water supplies, and provide refuge for wildlife.  Often these trees can be grown on poor soils where other crops won’t grow.  About 350,000 acres are used in this country to grow Christmas trees, preserving much green space.
--An acre of Christmas trees produces enough daily oxygen for 18 people.  The trees on farms in this country currently provide enough oxygen for 18 million people a day. 
--There are an estimated 350 million trees growing on farms in all 50 states, with more if you include the many farms in Canada.
--These trees are grown by over 15,000 farms in this country, which employ over 100,000 people either full or part-time.
--Time to grow a tree (6 to 7 feet) for sale can vary from 4 to 15 years, depending on species and climate, with the average being 7.
--Of those buying real trees, about one-quarter cut their own at local farms.  This upward trend
parallels the interest by many in supporting local business and agriculture.  Also, cutting your own tree ensures that you will have the freshest one possible.
--Top selling trees include balsam fir, Fraser fir, and Scotch pine.
--The top tree growing states nationwide are Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Washington.
--While many real trees in the north are locally grown, supporting local and regional agriculture, over 80 percent of artificial trees worldwide are made in China.
--No chemicals and few pesticides (if any) are used on real trees, with studies showing no residues on harvested trees.  Artificial trees are often plastic, and may contain the dangerous chemical PVC.  Manufacture of PVC creates the most toxic man-made chemicals, dioxins.  Artificial trees also may contain metal toxins such as lead.
--Christmas trees in home, both real and artificial, account for less than one-tenth of one percent of all home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.  Real trees kept fresh are difficult to ignite.
--Real Christmas trees are recyclable, often chipped into mulch at one of the more than 4,000 recycling centers nationwide.  The average family uses an artificial tree for 6 to 9 years before discarding, where it will remain in landfills for centuries, as they are not recyclable.
--A study by Swedish researchers found that, considering all the inputs, a real tree is five times more environmentally compatible than an artificial one.

More facts on Christmas trees, including their history, species, and how to care for them, are available from the National Christmas Tree Association (www.realchristmastrees.org). 

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