MDC encourages recycling of real Christmas trees as habitat for fish, wildlife

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- Once the presents have been opened and the feast eaten, there’s one last gift you can give as the Christmas season closes. Your real Christmas tree, completely cleaned of all tinsel, lights, and ornaments, can be recycled in all sorts of ways. Jamie Koehler, assistant manager of MDC’s Cape Nature Center, said real Christmas trees can be used to provide shelter to local fish and wildlife. Christmas trees can be used to improve habitat in ponds, lakes, or even a back yard.

“A real Christmas tree brings a great atmosphere of the holiday into your home, but then you can use it in many types of craft projects, or it can also provide a home for small game in a backyard or fish in your pond,” Koehler said.

When placed in a pond or lake, Christmas trees provide added brush that gives fish resting areas, shade, and places to hide from predators.

“Small fish need vegetation and brush to help them hide from predators,” Koehler said. “Additionally, predator fish like crappie and bass sometimes hide behind a limb to wait for an opportunity to grab its prey.”

Large trees make great fish habitat, but if Christmas trees are small, they’re still useful, especially when placed in a pond or lake together.

“Neighbors can work together and recycle all their real Christmas trees in their neighborhood pond,” she said, adding that the trees should be anchored with concrete blocks to keep them from floating to the surface.

Above water, the trees can be recycled for backyard habitat for small wildlife such as rabbits and reptiles.

“If you put the tree under a bird feeder, it will make a convenient nesting opportunity in the branches,” Koehler said, adding that Christmas trees can also be shredded or chipped for mulch and added to landscaping.

“A real Christmas tree can contribute to us and to nature in several ways,” Koehler said. “They’re the gift that keeps on giving.”

Find information about live Christmas tree uses at Learn more about the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center at