Oh, Christmas Tree!

December 1, 2013 | By More

Artificial Christmas trees are the norm for holiday decorating today. Fake Christmas trees are symmetrically pleasing, easy to maintain, pose less of a threat for fires and are usually a one-time purchase. No muss, no fuss and no scent unless you buy it in a bottle.

But before you take that artificial tree out of storage or get a new one, consider the benefits of decorating for the holidays with a “real” Christmas tree. There is something evocative about the smell of a real tree. One whiff and you can almost see family and friends gathered round the Christmas tree. Sure, it’s more work to maintain and a mess to take down, but it’s real and there will never be another one just like it.

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) lists several reasons why selecting a real tree rather than an artificial tree is the best choice. First, real Christmas trees benefit the environment. While these trees are growing they support life by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases and emitting fresh oxygen. The farms that grow Christmas Trees also stabilize soil, protect water supplies, provide refuge for wildlife and create scenic green belts on soil that doesn’t support other crops.

Real Christmas trees are also renewable and recyclable, says the NCTA. Christmas Trees are grown on farms just like any other agricultural crop. To ensure a constant supply, Christmas tree growers plant one to three new seedlings for every tree they harvest. On the other hand, artificial trees are a petroleum-based product manufactured primarily in Chinese factories. The average family uses an artificial tree for only six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill for centuries after disposal.

Real Christmas trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes and are often grown on soil that does not support other crops, so green spaces can be protected.

In summary, an organic Christmas tree has the three R’s: it’s real, recyclable and renewable. But there’s another big benefit- the fun of taking your family to a Christmas tree farm to choose and cut (or have the farmer cut) your own, personal memory-making Christmas tree.

TREE FARMS IN THE RIVER VALLEY

While Christmas tree farms have dwindled at an alarming rate because of the popularity of artificial trees and the hard work and low profit margin for growers, there are still at least two Christmas tree farms in the River Valley.

Hilltop Christmas Tree Farm, located two miles south of Dardanelle on Hwy 7, not only sells two species of choosencut trees, they offer free hayrides, hot cocoa, photos, candy canes and coloring books for the kids. They will also shake and bag the tree of your choice for no charge. Call (479) 229- 2201 (day) or (479) 264-3807 (evening) or email owners Terry and Johnnie Sue Christy at tchro2@cswnet.com

Pine Grove Christmas Tree Farms, three miles east of Charleston on Hwy 22, has wide variety of Christmas Tree species to choose from and also has free hayrides and hot chocolate on weekends , pig races and chickens and baby goats to feed and a giant haystack for kids to play on. For more info, call 479-965-2130 or go to geckart21@hotmail.com

SAVE A TREE, PLANT A TREE 

Some people opt to celebrate the holidays with a living tree- the kind that lives in a pot and is transplanted into the ground later. These trees are usually much smaller than the kind you buy at a lot or tree farm, but they have many values, too. The tree’s needles usually don’t shed and you can feel good about keeping Christmas alive all year.

For information on other Christmas tree farms in AR, selecting the right tree and how to care for the tree once you get it home, go to the Arkansas Christmas Tree Growers Association (ACTGA) website at http://www.arktreegrowers.com/

WHAT ABOUT THAT TREE IN YOUR LIVING ROOM?

So, you’ve had a live tree in your living room since Black Friday. It was the center of attention for your kids and the apple of your wife’s eye. It stood like a tinsel covered beacon of peace and good will toward man, just as you thought it would the day the tree-lot attendant loaded it in the truck. But now it’s just a tree again.

Good news! Christmas trees are even better recycled. No, I don’t mean finding a way to preserve it until next December. I’m talking about putting it back outside. Back where it belongs as habitat and eventually fertilizer for the ecosystem on your property or even in your favorite fishing hole.

All critters; furred, finned, feathered and even scaled or slimy can use more habitat. There’s no such thing as too much habitat. If you have room on your property you can add the tree to an existing brush-pile. An even better idea is to put it next to rocky or grassy habitat. This creates an edge and edge habitat is what most organisms prefer. It’s kind of a best of both worlds thing. A dead tree next to a rock-pile creates ideal edge habitat for reptiles. Take a fence lizard for example.

The lizard has all kinds of nooks and crannies in the rocks to hide in for protection. The rocks will warm faster than anything else in the morning sun so, the lizard can bask on them after waking up. The lizard has to cross a dangerous piece of open ground to feed. Lots of lizards get picked off by various predators here. But that was before you put a dead tree next to the rocks. The tree is a magnet for insects of all kinds. Voila! You’ve just created a buffet for the fence lizard. The lizard population grows and all of a sudden you don’t notice as many pesky insects in the yard. The ants that were swarming your hummingbird feeder last summer are vastly reduced in number. Welcome to practical wildlife management for the homeowner, and all it took was recycling a dead tree.

Old Christmas trees work wonders in the water too. Lake Dardanelle is peppered with sunken Christmas trees placed by savvy anglers. They also work great in farm ponds. Many farm ponds are like goldfish bowels, barren of cover. Adding an old Christmas tree will make a visible hotspot that attracts fish. It will also increase the biodiversity in your pond which is good for the entire pond ecosystem.

If you can’t use your old tree there are many sportsman, probably some you know, that will gladly take it off your hands. Or you can donate them to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for fish habitat. Here’s a link to the AGFC list of drop-off points http:// e2.ma/message/rulmd/3n8g3f#3

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