Real Trees

Jim Watson of Oak Hill gives one of his many trees a trim at his Watson's Cedar Drove Christmas Tree Farm.

Live Christmas trees are wonderful.

But as anyone who drives along Interstate 95 and has seen acres and acres of dead pine trees knows, they may also have helped bring in some unwanted invaders.

“Due to the arrival of exotic pathogens (fungal, insect, bacteria and viruses), it is estimated that 5 million of acres of North American Forests will be affected with significant levels of tree mortality,” said Don Spence, a an assistant professor of plant science at Bethune-Cookman University.

“There are more than 60 non-native forest pathogens that are currently being spreading across North America due to the movement of diseased wood and live trees,” Dr. Spence said. “The movement of dead trees by people has facilitated the spread of tree diseases hundreds of miles from the original infection location, usually an international port of entry.”

Also, it was once acceptable to dispose of Christmas trees on the beach, with the idea being they would help to capture sand and aid in building dunes. Unfortunately the dead trees become impediments to nesting sea turtles the following spring.

“In 2010, the State of Florida enacted a law that prohibits the movement of non-treated wood more than 50 miles,” Dr. Spence said.

Still, using real Christmas trees, typically grown and harvested in the USA or Canada, supports local or regional farms and small businesses, according to Dontmovefirewood.org. “Fake trees are made with PVC and other materials sourced with fossil fuels, while real trees are made mostly out of sunshine, water, and healthy soils. Real Christmas trees sequester carbon as they grow, doing their part to slow the process of climate change. Real Christmas trees can be recycled into mulch, artificial fish reef, dune stabilizers, or municipal compost.”

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, “It is much better environmentally to use a natural agricultural crop and recycle it after the holidays. Unfortunately, many people have the misconception that Christmas Trees are cut down from the forest. Real Christmas trees are grown as crops, just like corn or wheat, and raised on a farm. Once they are harvested, new seedlings are planted to replace harvested trees. These would not have been planted if trees hadn't been harvested the previous year.”

Christmas has come and gone, yet Christmas trees are still everywhere. What are some practical ways to dispose of them properly?

In Volusia County trees are accepted curbside for pickup to be recycled. Any Christmas tree recycling program is the preferred choice. Most municipalities will pick up discarded trees curbside and cart them back to headquarters to be chipped and shredded and re-cycled into mulch.

Tree owners could also consider turning the trees into firewood or mulch themselves. As wet wood can pose a fire hazard, the tree should be completely dry before burning it and Christmas trees are best burned outdoors. The sap from fresh trees could create a fire hazard in chimneys or vent piping so Christmas trees should never be burned in fireplaces or wood stoves, or indoors at all.

Christmas trees can also be set outside for wildlife (such as birds and squirrels) to foster their creativity. The creatures can use it as shelter, or bird feeders can be hung from the branches.

For all the artists out there, Christmas trees can become any number of wooden craft items or potpourri.

You can certainly take the tree to a solid waste facility, dump or landfill, but with curbside pickup that may be an unnecessary trip.

A Dontmovefirewood.org post by Leigh Greenwood states, “You definitely don’t want to set the tree out in a brush pile in your backyard. Pests, weed seeds and tree diseases could emerge and contaminate your property. It might seem like a harmless idea but it really could result in a big negative impact.”

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