UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail:  indianco@ufl.edu

November 23, 2005;  Updated  November 2006 & December 2012

Quick Links:   Fake Trees    Florida Trees   Hitchhiker Pests    Photo/Essay Contest     References & Links    

Feature Article - updated from original release for week of November 27, 2005

Dan Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent

Buy A Real Christmas Tree!

The race to Christmas has begun.  One of the favorite tasks in Florida homes is to put up the Christmas tree.  This year growers will donate more than 18,000 Christmas Trees to U.S. troops and their families this holiday season.  Even the White House chooses a real tree - the 2012 National Christmas Tree is beautiful 19-foot-tall Fraser fir  presented by growers Rusty and son Beau Estes, co-owners of Peak Farms, Ashe County, North Carolina.

  http://www.christmastree.org/dnn/portals/22/Images/DSC_0927-small.JPG

The 2012 Christmas Tree is delivered to the White House.  Photo: NCTA

 

T4T is program that provides Christmas Trees for US troops stationed all over the world.  Click here to learn more on the internet, or go here if you have a Facebook account. 

Today’s column will point out some facts about fake trees, tell how to find a Florida-grown Christmas tree, suggest  ways choose the right real tree for your holiday and provide information about Christmas tree "hitchhikers".

Avoid Fakes

According to Department of Commerce, in 2005 the US spent $131 million on 9.2 million imported fake trees.  Did you know that the first fake trees were produced by a company that made toilet brushes?  Today these products are made of plastic, metal, and even wood – which in one case, was banned from importation into the US.  Some fake trees come from foreign sweat shops and others have warning labels because they contain lead.  And in some consumer tests, they are not as inflammable as the fire-proof labeling indicates.

 

Consider Florida Trees

An alternative to imported plastic that supports our agricultural economy is to choose a live tree.  Did you know that Florida has Christmas Tree farms?  While most of these cut your own Christmas tree farms are in North Florida, the closest are in Lake County;  others are near Daytona, Ocala, and Gainesville.

There are several excellent sources of information available on how to choose and display your Live Christmas tree.  I’ve written a few articles on these subjects that are on our website, and printed copies can be picked up at our office. 

The Florida Department of Agriculture actively promotes this product to consumers and provides help to consumers through the Florida Christmas Tree Association.  And, if you will purchase a live tree from an out of state supplier, look to the National Christmas Tree Association for lots of good information on tree selection can care.

Unwanted Hitchhikers

Sometimes consumers report that bugs on their live Christmas trees have invaded their house.  According to the North Carolina Extension Service, your real Christmas tree may rarely have any unwanted hitchhikers.  There are several kinds of insects that spend the winter in conifers such as Fraser fir. When you bring the tree into your home, they think spring has come and become active again.  In many ways these hitchhikers are a “symptom” of a fresh recently harvested tree.

Should the growers have treated for these pests? Unfortunately, they didn't even know they were there.  As few as one tree per acre might have one of these post-harvest pests on it.  Although Christmas trees are regularly scouted for pests that damage the tree, these post-harvest pests are rarely observed in the field.  No one knows they are in the tree until they are brought into the home.

Pesticide treatments of every Christmas tree before harvest would be unthinkable because of the possible pesticide residues that would affect not only farm workers but consumers.  Most growers use pesticides only when they are needed to preserve tree quality and when they would effectively control the pest.  For these unwanted critters, it would not be worth treating all harvested trees for the handful of trees with hitchhikers.

If you're used to seeing aphids on your roses, you might be surprised by the appearance of Cinara aphids. They are much larger and brown to black and have been mistaken for ticks. However, ticks have never been found on Christmas trees at any time of year.

The spruce spider mite is a common pest of Fraser fir. Spider mites are very small, and appear as dark-red dots when shaken out of the tree. With a magnifying lens you can see the eight legs characteristic of mites. Spider mites can't live in your house. Once the tree is removed, they will die out. While spider mites could cause small red stains on carpets, ornaments, or furnishings, they do not bite, nor do they cause any diseases.  

Praying mantids are a well-known insect predator. Their egg cases are frequently found in Christmas trees.  In the fall, female mantids lay eggs in a frothy liquid which hardens into an egg case that sticks to the branch. Once warmed inside the home,  the eggs may hatch and tiny mantids can invade your home. Again, these insects do not bite or carry disease.  If the egg case can be located, remove it from the tree and put it outside. Small mantids that have escaped can be vacuumed up or caught and released outside.

 

Cinara aphids on tree branch

 

 

 

 

 

Cinara aphids live on fir trees, and can sometimes be found on Christmas Trees.  Photo Courtesy NCSU.

spruce spider mite

 

 

 

 

 

The spruce spider mite is a common pest of Fraser fir. They look like small red dots. Photo Courtesy NCSU.

parying mantis egg case

 

 

 

 

 

Praying mantid egg cases may contain between 200-400 eggs. Photo Courtesy NCSU.

I've placed more information on our Okeechobee web page, http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu.  If you need additional information on Florida Christmas Trees, please email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469.  Local residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee.   

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Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida. Nick Place, Dean Last update: 12/12/2012 .  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert   

References & Links

Florida Christmas Tree Association website

Florida Christmas Tree farm list
National Christmas Tree Association website 

 Types of Christmas Trees

 Tree Selection tips

 Tree Care tips

Captain Jack's Christmas Tree Farm Network

 Christmas Tree Farm Network

Florida Christmas Tree Farms

References

 

Sidebottom, Jill and Owen, Jeff.  Post-Harvest Pests on Christmas Trees Fletcher, NC: NC Cooperative Extension Service, 12/14/2004 . http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/programs/xmas/postharvestpests/rogues.html#cinara

Florida Christmas Tree Producer - web resources: http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu/environment_and_recreation/forestry/christmas_trees.html 

 

Archived local news Articles on Christmas Trees:

Buy A REAL Christmas Tree!            Okeechobee News 11/28/05 Okeechobee Times 12/1/05

Real Trees for Trimming                 Okeechobee News 11/29/04     Okeechobee Times 12/2/04

Choosing Your Christmas Tree             Okeechobee Times 12/1/03       Okeechobee News 12/4/03