Real or fake: The classic Christmas tree controversy

Yelena Kibasova

Students often have to choose between real or fake when it comes to friends, brand names and even breasts.

Now, with the arrival of the holiday season, students may have to make that choice once more.

The smell of the pine and the mission to pick out the “perfect one” draw some to hunt for a real Christmas tree.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are some basic rules to follow when choosing a tree for indoor use.

Before leaving for the tree lot, make sure to measure the area where the tree will stand, considering both height and width.

“Sometimes (people) don’t take into consideration how much the stand is going to raise the tree and if they put a star on top… a lot of people will underestimate it,” said Bryan Savaloja, forest resources junior and public relations officer for the University Forestry Club.

When arriving at a tree farm, customers should check to see if the lot is well lit and that the trees are stored in a shaded area.

There are many varieties of trees to choose from, such as firs, pines and spruces.

The Forestry Club’s top sellers at its tree sale this year are the balsam fir and the Fraser fir.

During their search, customers can perform a freshness test on the trees.

“A lot of Christmas trees are actually dyed and so you might not notice a dry needle or dry needles just by looking at it,” said Nancy Rose, University extension educator in horticulture. “So you really need to run your hand along the branch… and see if needles are falling out. Feel them and see if they are dry.”

Customers should look the tree over and watch for signs of dryness and deterioration.

“You look for signs of discoloration (or) a lot of needles falling,” Savaloja said. “Sometimes, trees will get a genetic defect and they won’t hold their needles for very long.”

Once customers choose a fresh tree, they need to take certain steps to keep the tree healthy throughout the holiday season.

The stand used for the tree should be able to hold a substantial amount of water because the trees typically require a lot of water.

The National Christmas Tree Association advises that, as a general rule, stands should be able to hold one quart of water per inch of stem diameter.

“The first couple of hours it can suck up anywhere from a gallon of water to three or four,” said Andrea Dierich, forest resources and classical civilizations junior and president of the Forestry Club. “You need to make sure that you have your stand full of water.”

Before putting the tree in the stand, cut off one-half inch from the bottom of the stem. This will reopen the tree stem so that it can take in water.

The temperature of the water is not important. The Minnesota Christmas Tree Association advises customers not to add anything to the water; just plain tap water will do the trick.

Finally, keep the Christmas tree away from heat sources so the water does not evaporate quickly.

“If they’re not keeping the tree hydrated, it will get brittle and the needles will start falling and will become a big fire hazard if they have lights on,” Savaloja said.

Dierich said spruces tend to lose their needles more quickly, and some trees may lose a lot regardless of the customer’s efforts.

“Whoever they buy it from, if it loses needles for some reason, (make sure the seller is) willing to replace it for free,” she said. “They should always be taking care of the customer like that.”

Real-tree fans can pick up a fresh Christmas tree at the Forestry Club’s seasonal tree sale. The sale continues through Dec. 24. The lot is on the north side of Larpenteur Avenue at Les Bolstad Golf Course driving range.

Trees range in price from $16 to $95 and come in six varieties.

Sociology sophomore Nell Goepel and her roommates are setting up an artificial tree this season.

“I think it’s probably for cleanliness; we’re pretty lazy and don’t want to deal with all the needles and stuff,” she said.

Although artificial Christmas trees may be the simpler route, Christmas tree enthusiasts claim that real trees strongly benefit the environment, and are renewable and recyclable.

And if this doesn’t convince prospective customers, the National Christmas Tree Association points out: Artificial Christmas trees were invented by a toilet brush company called Addis Brush Company.