Consider a live tree this Christmas and give a gift to nature

News from the region
Saint Louis
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St. LOUIS, Mo.—One of the greatest gifts you can give your home for the holidays is a live Christmas tree.  Nothing evokes holiday traditions like the aromatic scent of fresh pine or spruce, and the authentic look of a real tree.  The Missouri Department of Conservation (MCD) also says natural Christmas trees can benefit the environment and help wildlife, too.

”First and foremost, they smell great, and that’s awesome,” said MDC Community Forester Danny Moncheski.  “You have something in your house that actually gives something back to the environment.  Throughout the year, these trees are sequestering carbon out of the air.  An artificial tree on the other hand consumes energy to produce.” 

He also points out that artificial trees, often sourced overseas, are made up of materials that are not environmentally friendly.  That’s something to think about, considering artificial trees tend to end up in landfills after an average of six years.

One option is purchasing a cut tree from a traditional Christmas tree lot.  In addition to abundant commercial lots around the area, there are also some non-profit lots to consider where your money may go to help a good cause.  Moncheski recommends measuring before you go and getting a tree that will fit comfortably in your home.  Giving the branches a firm shake to see how many needles fall is a good test of tree quality he said—the more needles come off, the drier and less fresh the tree is likely to be.

“Cut an inch or so off the bottom of the trunk before you set it up because sap can collect at the base sitting at the lot and plug water intake,” Moncheski said.  Of course you’ll want to check daily to make sure the tree has water.  Always ensure your tree is placed away from heat sources such as furnace vents and fireplaces that might cause the tree to dry out or create a fire hazard.

Or if you prefer a DIY approach, cutting your own tree at one of the many Christmas tree farms in the area can be a fun family experience and help support local tree producers.

Balled living trees are a good choice if you want something to plant in your yard after the holidays.   “We only have a couple of native evergreens in our state, but there are some from other parts of the country that do well, like eastern white pine, Norway spruce, and you can get Colorado spruce to grow as well,” explained Moncheski.  Many local nurseries offer these trees for sale.

Moncheski recommends keeping a balled tree outside until about 10 days or so before Christmas.  Also while you do want to make sure the root ball stays moist, Moncheski cautions against submerging or soaking it. 

An evergreen planted on the north side of your home can help buffer winter winds.  “But when you go to plant, you want to have the concept of right tree, right place in mind,” Moncheski said.  Consider where you’ll be planting the tree, how large it will get, and what’s surrounding it.

No matter which kind of natural Christmas tree you select it can have a much more useful fate after the holidays than its artificial counterpart.  Remains of cut trees make excellent mulch for gardens, habitat for wildlife, and when submerged in lakes and ponds, superb homes for fish.  Planting your Christmas tree benefits birds by providing nesting sites and continues to help absorb carbon dioxide and create oxygen.

For more about selecting and caring for live Christmas trees, go to