Ministry of Agriculture

Christmas Trees

[xmastreefarm]WHAT ARE CHRISTMAS TREES?

Christmas trees are evergreen trees that are decorated at Christmas. In BC, the primary type of Christmas trees is Douglas-fir, although Grand fir, Noble fir, Scotch pine, White pine, Concolor fir and various spruces are also grown.

WHERE ARE CHRISTMAS TREES PRODUCED IN BC?

[grandfir]Christmas trees were first harvested and shipped to market from the East Kootenay area of BC during the 1930s. This area still produces most of the BC-grown Christmas trees. In BC, Christmas trees are cut from the native stands in the Kootenay region and grown on plantations in the Fraser Valley, on Vancouver Island, and in the Okanagan, Thompson and Kootenay regions, as well as on Hydro rights-of-ways.

HOW MANY CHRISTMAS TREES DO WE PRODUCE?

Each year BC produces about 900,000 Christmas trees. About 75% of these are harvested from native stands. There are about 450 growers: 200 in the Kootenay area, 200 in the Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island and 50 in the Okanagan and Thompson areas.

HOW ARE CHRISTMAS TREES PRODUCED?

[douglasfir]Most Christmas trees that are harvested from native stands come from private lands; about 20% come from Crown Lands. These trees are produced using stump culture. A tree is cut leaving the bottom 2 or 3 branches near the ground. A shoot may grow from near the cut or the uppermost of these remaining branches may turn up to form a new tree top. This type of culture has been practiced in BC for 40 to 50 years. Recently there have been improved cultural practices, such as fertilizing and shearing to improve the look and marketability of the trees. Stump culture is a sustainable Christmas tree production system.

The number of trees produced on plantations is rapidly increasing in all regions of BC. Seedlings are planted and grown to harvest in 6 to 10 years. Land cultivation, fertilizing, spraying and shearing are farming techniques that are used to produce nicely shaped trees ready for market. Plantation tree are harvested by cutting with a chain saw about 5cm above the ground. The trees are then bailed by compressing and wrapping with twine so they are a smaller package to ship and branches do not get damaged during transit.

WHAT DOES A CHRISTMAS TREE LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?

A Christmas tree is an evergreen that is decorated with lights and baubles. Christmas trees are usually cut but sometimes potted trees can be decorated. Although they are all green, some are dark green while others are blue green. They can have long or short needles (leaves) which can be soft or sharp to the touch.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE CHRISTMAS TREES LEAVE THE FARM?

[decoratedxmastrees]Christmas trees are sold through retail outlets and grocery stores. If being shipped a long distance, they are transported inside large semi trailers or the load is well tarped to prevent desiccation. The corner Christmas tree lots are disappearing under pressure from imported American trees. Many growers are developing Choose and Harvest farms. On Choose and Harvest farms, the consumer picks out the tree they want before it is harvested. These farms often supply hot chocolate or hot dogs for the kids, sleigh rids, Christmas music, a warm fire and possibly Santa Claus.

Mexico has been a strong export market for BC Christmas trees for many years. Other markets are being investigated in Central and South America and Asia. The U.S. is also a good market. BC supplies about 50% of the Christmas tree sold in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Trees grown in coastal climates freeze and loose all their needles if shipped into cold climates. Trees shipped into the cold areas of the Canadian Prairies are supplied from the East Kootenay area where trees are grown in a cool dry climate so they can withstand the cold prairie climate.

BC imports plantation trees from the U.S. into the Fraser Valley area and exports native stand trees to the U.S. from the East Kootenay area.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO CHRISTMAS TREE PRODUCERS FACE?

[noble]Producers of Christmas trees face a marketing challenge. Christmas trees are viewed as messy, a fire hazard and environmentally detrimental. Growers are countering concerns about trees drying out and dropping needles or creating a fire hazard by providing information on the proper care of a Christmas tree so that needle dropping can be reduced. They are also providing information that points out these trees are grown as an agricultural, renewable crop. In recent years, a mulching service has been provided in many centres. This ensures that used Christmas trees are turned into usable compost or mulch.

WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING CHRISTMAS TREES?

  • Tree farmer
  • Contract shearing crews
  • Truck drivers
  • Christmas tree lot salespeople
  • Boy Scouts and others who sell them
  • Municipalities for recycling
  • Utility company employees (when trees are grown on powerline right-of-ways)

Interesting Fact About Christmas Trees:

The tradition of decorating a holiday tree got its start in pre-Christian times in Europe. Evergreens, symbols of life because they remain green through the winter, were brought into homes and places of worship as part of some religious rituals and festivals. In the 16th century, Martin Luther is said to have decorated a fir tree with candles to represent the starry heavens from which Christ had come.


Contacts and other resources:
 
BCMAL - Agroforestry Information
InfoBasket: Your Portal to Agri-Food Information on the Internet