The Benefits of a Live Christmas Tree

December 3, 2021 10:04 am

By Cory Swift-Turner, VDOF Public Information Specialist

Every holiday season, thousands of Virginians carry on a family tradition by loading up in their car and driving to one of the state’s nearly 500 Christmas tree farms, to find the tree that will be the centerpiece of their Christmas decorating. Whether you are selecting a pre-cut tree, or cutting one down yourself, there is something exciting about finding the special tree that’s going to live in your home for the holidays.

In addition to the memories that families make while finding a live Christmas tree, there are many other benefits of opting for one. Firstly, getting a live Christmas tree is better for the environment. Yes, that’s right – cutting down a Christmas tree at a farm is better for the environment than getting a plastic one from your local big box store, for several reasons.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla) on a tree branch.

The benefits of live Christmas trees begins as they’re growing for the 5-10 years it takes for them to reach ideal size (depending on the species). During this time, they provide important wildlife habitat, especially in the winter. They also produce oxygen while absorbing and storing carbon. Christmas trees can be grown on poor soils that few other crops would grow on, and they reduce erosion while improving water quality.

Although you are removing a tree from an ecosystem when you cut it down and bring it home, it will be replaced by another immediately. Christmas trees are 100% recyclable, renewable, and biodegradable. Ever wonder what happens to a Christmas tree when you leave it on your curb? It’s usually turned into mulch, which can be used to nourish next year’s gardens, pave hiking trails, and cushion playgrounds.

Christmas trees can live a second life as the bed of a hiking trail.

Opting for live Christmas trees can be more expensive, and they are higher maintenance, but the investment is a worthwhile one. By buying a live Christmas tree from a Virginia farmer, you’re supporting local businesses and economies. It may seem hard to believe that something purchased once per year can impact Virginia’s economy much, but you would be surprised. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Christmas trees are a strong contributor to Virginia’s agricultural economy, with annual sales around $10 million. Virginia is the seventh leading U.S. state in terms of total Christmas trees harvested, sixth in total tree acreage in production, and twelfth in the number of operations with Christmas tree sales.

Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, with forestry being the third largest.

If that’s not reason enough, many Christmas tree farms offer additional amenities, such as hot beverages, holiday treats and Christmas shops with goods from other local businesses to make your experience even more fun and memorable.

To learn more about Christmas trees and farms in Virginia, and to locate a farm near you, visit the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association. Learn about the 2021 Virginia State Capitol Christmas Tree, a 25-foot Norway spruce grown in Frederick County, that VDOF selected and delivered to Richmond.

No matter how you choose to celebrate this season, the Virginia Department of Forestry wishes you happy holidays.


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