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It isn’t Christmas without a Christmas Tree!

December 17, 2009

I LOVE CHRISTMAS . . . the time with family, the food, the decorations, the lights, the music, and the smell of pine. Growing up we never had a real Christmas tree (I know you are shocked),but  my mom is allergic to pine. So we have always had an artificial tree, with the smell of pine provided by candles and air freshners. I love the smell of pine, artificial or real, year round. It truly is a wonderful smell . . . but now on to the purpose of my post today! I say on my home page “Blog about all things AG related in PA” but most of my post have been about agronomy, soils, and manure. Today I am going to talk about something completely different, the Christmas Tree Industry in PA. I figure this is very appropriate, since most of you have supported this industry somehow in the past month or will in the next few days.

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture (USDA-NASS) 1,179,733 Christmas Trees were cut in PA. This is a lot of trees. PA has over 2000 Christmas Tree farms which puts PA as the highest state in number of Christmas tree farms. Christmas trees are grown in all PA counties, except Philadelphia County.  Indiana County, PA is known as the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World.” PA sends many Christmas trees to southern states like Florida and Georgia and out to the mid-west. But the majority of trees shipped out of state go to metropolitan areas along the east coast, i.e.  Boston to Washington D.C.

The top grown Christmas trees in PA include the Fraser Fir and the Douglas Fir.

The Fraser Fir was named after a Scot botanist, John Fraser, who explored the southern Appalachian Mountains in late 18th century. Fraser fir is monoecious, which means both female and male flowers form on the same tree.  The cones that form are 2-2.5 inches long, once ripened the cones fall apart leaving a central core. The seeds are typically eaten by red squirrels. The needles of a Fraser fir are flattened and dark green. They tend to be 0.5 – 1.0 inch long with a medial groove on the upper side. With a Fraser fir’s excellent shape, needle retention, color, wonderful scent, and excellent shipping capabilities, it has become one of the most popular Christmas tree species.

The Douglas fir really isn’t even a fir. Douglas fir is part of the Pseudotsuga genus, while true firs are from the genus Abies, examples of true firs include: Fraser fir, Balsam fir, Silver fir, and Red fir. A Douglas fir can grow up to heights of 250 feet with very rough dark brown bark. The needles are between 1 and 1.5 inches long and radiate out of the branch in all directions. These needles are soft to the touch and smell sweet when crushed. In the “wild” Douglas fir range through central California, western Oregon, Washington, parts of the Rockies and up into Alaska. These trees tend to show up after wildfires happen on wetter ground. One fact (that I find amazing) about Douglas fir is, they can survive moderate fires due to their extremely thick bark.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Joe b. permalink
    December 25, 2009 8:39 am

    Great blog, reminds me of going to (Bristol County Agricultural High School), here in S.E., Mass back in the 1980’s, never been to PA , can u tour thease farms ?, great to learn more about the trees, just started following u, will read your other blogs, soon, merry Christmas .

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