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Posts Tagged: Lynn Wunderlich

'Real' Christmas trees support farmers and the environment

Most real Christmas trees sold in California are raised on farms, creating jobs and boosting the economies in rural areas. 

That's just one reason UC Cooperative Extension advisor Lynn Wunderlich encourages the use of fresh-cut Christmas trees during the holiday season.

Visiting choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms is a fun family tradition that supports farmers, local economies and the environment. (Photo: USDA)

"This is an age-old debate," Wunderlich said. The American Christmas Tree Association says that PVC used in artificial trees is recyclable. If a household decorates with the same artificial tree for at least four years, the carbon footprint will be smaller than that of a household that purchases a real tree every year.

But the impact goes deeper. Wunderlich points out that artificial trees are mainly made in Asia. They have to travel a great distance to the U.S. compared to an American-farmed tree, eating up natural resources during transport. "Buy American," Wunderlich says.

Besides, there are the transcendent benefits of real Christmas trees. Farmed trees provide open space and wildlife habitat during the off-season, and fill the home with a natural pine scent during holidays.

Their role in sequestering carbon is aided by a production practice used by many farmers, called "stump culture."

"They use the same root system to regrow another tree, so the trees are regenerated," Wunderlich said. "Trees are replanted regularly in other farming culture. Christmas trees sequester carbon. Nearly a ton of carbon per acre of trees, depending on species and number of trees planted on the land."

While artificial trees end up landfills or energy-intense recycling plants, live trees are biodegradable. They can be naturally recycled by composting or shredded to use as mulch. Many communities offer curb-side pickup in the days after Christmas.

While farmed trees can be purchased on tree lots, home improvement stores, even grocery and drug stores, Wunderlich says a trip to a choose-and-cut tree farm is an enchanting family outing. Many Christmas tree farmers also provide food, crafts, activities and visits with Santa.

“Families can visit the farmer year after year as their children grow, so that's part of the experience,” Wunderlich said.


The California Christmas Tree Association maintains a directory of choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms around state.

Some National Forests allow Christmas tree cutting with a permit. Read more here.


Posted on Monday, December 4, 2017 at 9:25 AM

Christmas tree farmers growing Nordmann fir asked to look out for new pest

Nordmann fir Christmas trees are becoming popular on California farms because they have rich color, excellent structure, good needle retention and strong branches for ornament display.
California Christmas tree growers who have planted Nordmann or Turkish fir on their farms should be watchful for a new pest that recently made its way to the United States, said Lynn Wunderlich, UC Cooperative Extension advisor who works with Christmas tree growers in the Central Sierra.

Some research plantings of Nordmann fir at Washington State University and one Washington farmer's field have been invaded by an adelgid that appears to be closely related to silver fir woolly adelgids, a common pest on Nordmann fir in Europe. Adelgids (pronounced uh-DEL-gids) are certain types of aphids that feed on conifers.

“Fortunately, adelgids attacking Nordmann fir haven't been reported in California, but we want our growers to be aware of them and to let me know if they see symptoms on Nordmann or Turkish fir,” Wunderlich said.

White, cottony masses on tree branches and twisted, curled and discolored needles are signs of adelgid infestation.

In California, growers produce Christmas trees valued at about $6 million per year, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Nordmann fir has become a popular species for Christmas tree growers in the Sierra foothills. Native of the Caucasus in Turkey and the Republic of Georgia, Nordmanns have rich color, excellent structure, good needle retention and strong branches for ornament display. Still more advantageous is their resistance to pests and diseases that plague other popular tree species, like white and red fir.

“Because of Nordmann fir, we've been able to plant Christmas trees in areas where we could not grow white fir due to Phytophthora,” Wunderlich said. “Consumers are realizing they like it and are asking for the species.”

If the adelgid makes its way to California, Wunderlich is prepared to work with local growers to devise a control strategy based on the results of research her Cooperative Extension counterparts in Washington are conducting on the pest.

California Christmas tree farmers who suspect their trees have been infested with the silver fir woolly adelgid are encouraged to contact Wunderlich at (530) 621-5505, lrwunderlich@ucanr.edu.

An initiative to maintain and enhance sustainable natural ecosystems security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Posted on Friday, December 5, 2014 at 8:16 AM

Cutting down a Christmas tree is sustainable family fun

Securing a Christmas tree for the ride home. (Photo: Susie Kocher)

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, Susie Kocher bundles up her children, gathers the extended family and hikes into the Lake Tahoe Basin forest to find a Christmas tree.

“It’s my favorite part of the season,” Kocher said. “Having the fresh, living thing in the house really symbolizes the holiday. You can’t do it with a fake tree.”

Kocher, a forester and the natural resources advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in the Central Sierra, lives and works in Lake Tahoe. The Lake Tahoe Basin Management District is one of nine national forests in California, all of them in the northern part of the state, where the U.S. Forest Service allows Christmas tree cutting with a $10 permit.

Though some people mourn the death of any tree, Kocher says careful selection and removal of Christmas trees is an enchanting family tradition that enriches forest health.

“We have a lot of small trees on public lands because of fire suppression,” Kocher said. “They’re all competing with one another and many will ultimately die. A smart harvest of Christmas trees can improve the forest by helping with thinning.”

People with permits to cut down Christmas trees in national forests must follow strict guidelines. The trees must be within 10 feet of another living tree, the base of the trunk cannot be more than six inches wide and it must be cut within six inches of the ground. Some national forests limit the harvest to certain tree species.

Despite committing to these guidelines when obtaining a permit, Kocher said she has seen some Christmas tree harvesters make ill-advised choices.

“Some are too lazy to find a good tree and will cut the top off a large tree,” Kocher said. “You can be driving around and see what looks like a poor old Dr. Suess tree, which is what grows from the ugly remnant left behind in the forest.”

Such irresponsible Christmas tree cutting has led some forests to discontinue Christmas tree harvesting for personal use.

Kelly Hooten, information specialist with the Sierra National Forest, said the organization stopped issuing Christmas tree cutting permits because people would tend to cut down only healthy, strong trees.

“It’s really the sickly, Charlie Brown trees that we would prefer to thin in our forest,” Hooten said.

The El Dorado National Forest does not allow Christmas tree cutting because there are more than 30 Christmas tree farms in the vicinity where visitors can choose and cut down their own trees.

“Allowing Christmas tree cutting in forests would hurt these farmers economically,” said Lynn Wunderlich, UCCE advisor in the Central Sierra office. Many Christmas tree farmers also provide food, crafts, activities and visits with Santa.

“Families can visit the farmer year after year as their children grow, so that’s part of the experience,” Wunderlich said.

There has been ongoing debate about whether a fake tree or real tree is more environmentally friendly, but for Kocher, there is no question.

“Fresh real trees are a renewable resource, fake trees are not,” she said. “It’s an agricultural product. You can contribute to a local farmers’ income or you can help thin the forest. Picking and bringing home a fresh tree, decorating it and smelling it defines the season for me. Without it, I don’t think it would feel like Christmas.”

Posted on Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 9:17 AM
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