UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service
458 Highway 98 North
Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578
Phone: (863) 763-6469
E- mail: email@example.com
November 23, 2005; Updated November 2006 & December 2012
Feature Article - updated from original release for week of November 27, 2005
Dan Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent
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.
The 2012 Christmas Tree is delivered to the White House. Photo: NCTA
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".
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.
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.
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 live on fir trees, and can sometimes be found on Christmas Trees. Photo Courtesy NCSU.
The spruce spider mite is a common pest of Fraser fir. They look like small red dots. Photo Courtesy NCSU.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 863-763-6469. Local residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee.
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|
|Captain Jack's Christmas Tree Farm Network||Florida Christmas Tree Farms|
Jill and Owen, Jeff. Post-Harvest
Pests on Christmas Trees Fletcher, NC: NC Cooperative
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