When choosing a Christmas tree think local

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The holiday season is upon us and residents celebrating Christmas will soon (if they haven’t already!) be buying a tree to place presents under. If you plan to buy a real tree this year, several Cornell University experts have some advice to help you find the best one.


First, what type of tree should you get? Lee Dean, the lead arborist for Cornell Botanic Gardens, suggests considering a living tree and advises choosing a species that grows naturally in your area. If It’s fragrance you’re looking for, Dean’s favorite is the Douglas Fir for its citrus scent. But, Blue Spruce is also an excellent choice, with its wintergreen fragrance.


Perhaps it’s the needles you’re worried about because of young children or pets.


“Douglas Fir — when young, it and other firs typically have more pliable branches and softer needles than spruce,” Dean said, but retaining those needles will be your job once you get the tree home. “Generally, if the tree was freshly cut, needle retention relates to how well you care for the tree, once it’s in your home. Monitoring the water level is very important — keep water above the bottom of the trunk.”


Brian Eshenaur, a plant pathologist that specializes in plant diagnostics, suggests using your senses -sight, touch, and smell – when picking a tree.


“Look for a tree with a good solid-green color. Needle yellowing or a slight brown speckled color could lead to early needle drop,” Eshenaur said. “Don’t be afraid to handle and bend the branches and shoots. Avoid a tree if green needles come off in your hand or the shoots crack or snap with handling.”
Anyone familiar with a classic Christmas tree knows that scent by heart. But you may not know that the scent begins to fade after the tree is cut. Eshenaur suggests flexing one of the needles to check the scent. If there isn’t much fragrance that could mean that the tree was cut too long ago.


Happy holidays and happy tree hunting!

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