Does it seem like the conifers that you bring into the house are getting drier and drier—or is it my imagination? No sooner does the tree get into the house that the needles begin their fall-off—even as you’re cramming the trunk into its water trough or gingerly placing ornaments on the tree. A real indication that the days are numbered for this already dead tree.
I keep my fingers crossed that the tree doesn’t lose its needles in unison in front of everyone. I know it is going to happen shortly. Will it be right after the last-gasp Vacuum of the Year? Or in the middle of the New Year’s Eve Epic Party of the Year. The anticipation rather reminds me of Cinderella waiting to lose her gown at the stroke of midnight EST.
If you happened to be listening to National Public Radio on December 10 you might have heard an interview with Dr. Raj Lada, founding director of the Christmas Tree Research Center of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. His research aims to increase needle retention where growing fir trees is a multi-million dollar commercial industry. Good news, Dr. Lada is said to be on the verge of doubling the life of the cut Christmas tree. At the facility they are working on a method that will block the release of ethylene. In basic terms, this would be like slowing or halting the ripening of a banana.
His remedy isn’t here yet but in the meantime, I deduced these recommendations from the interview:
- The trauma of transport can trigger the start of the ethylene process. You might want to buy from producers closest to you, cutting down when you select it. In transport—the less shaking the better.
- If you do buy from a retailer, hope that they’ve been keeping them in a water vessel.
- Once you have your specimen home, re-cut the trunk at least one inch.
- Lights alter a tree’s metabolic function and they are also spectrum sensitive. White lights might be preferable and don’t turn them off at night. “When the tree is in the dark it will start “respiring” more, using all its carbohydrates too soon.”
- Keep your tree stand filled with water, checking it daily. A glycerin product in the water is pointless as it will not reach the necessary height due to its viscosity. Also adding sugar to the water or fertilizer will have little effect.
- Don’t use products that close stomata as they will shut down the carbon dioxide exchange needed for photosynthesis. It needs to have the sugar synthesized every day.
- Keep the tree in a cooler room if possible (but not at freezing temperatures). Keep it away from the kitchen.
- Finally, keep fruit away from the tree. Fruit gives off ethylene.
I wonder how Cinderella would deal with needle-drop? I guess she’d just get out her dustpan every hour on the hour. Or maybe she would have thrown in the towel and had a tree crafted of glass instead.
Here’s the transcript of the NPR interview with Dr. Lada.
Photo by Jean-Pierre Bazard, Wikimedia Creative Commons
Nancy R. Peck