Master Gardener: Christmas tree facts

Master Gardener

by Marianne Schotzko

U of MN Master Gardener

Information taken from the University of Illinois Extension website about Christmas trees updated in 2012:


The use of evergreen trees to celebrate the winter season occurred before the birth of Christ.

Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882. Christmas tree lights were first mass-produced in 1890.

In 1856 Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, was the first President to place a Christmas tree in the White House.

In 2012, 46 million Christmas tree seedlings were planted by U.S. growers.

More than 2,000 trees are usually planted per acre. On average 1,000 – 1,500 of these trees survive. In the northern part of country (MN), perhaps 750 trees will remain.

Almost all trees require shearing to attain the Christmas tree shape.

It takes six to ten years of fighting heavy rain, wind, hail and drought to get a mature tree.

Most Christmas trees are cut weeks before they get to a retail outlet. It is important to keep them watered thoroughly when they reach your home. In the first week, a Christmas tree in your home will consume as much as a quart of water per day.

Artificial Christmas trees were developed in Germany during the 19th century and later became popular in the United States. These “trees” were made using goose feathers that were dyed green and attached to wire branches. The wire branches were then wrapped around a central dowel rod that acted as the trunk.

In 1930 the U.S. based Addis Brush Company created the first artificial Christmas tree made from brush bristles. The company used the same machinery that is used to manufacture toilet brushes, but they were dyed green.

Artificial Christmas trees made largely from aluminum were manufactured in the United States, first in Chicago in 1958.

Today, most artificial Christmas trees are made of PVC plastic. PVC trees are fire-retardant but not fire-resistant. 80% of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China.

In 2012, 35% of real Christmas trees sold were from chain stores or garden centers/nursery. 24% from cut and harvest farms, 15% from retail tree lots, and 15% from non-profit groups. (that only makes for 89% in my book).

In 2012, 85% of the Christmas trees purchased were pre-cut, and 14% were cut-your-own.(we are up to 99% now)

The most popular Christmas trees are: Scotch pine, Douglas fir, noble fir, Fraser fir, balsam firm Virginia pine and white pine.

In the United States, there are more than 15,000 Christmas tree farms.

Approximately 100,000 people are employed full or part-time in the Christmas tree industry.

The mean average purchase price of a live tree in 2012 was $41.30.

Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington, New York, and Virginia are the top Christmas tree producing states.

Christmas trees are grown and harvested in all 50 states.

Michigan ranks third among all states in the production of real Christmas trees, but grows a larger variety of Christmas trees than any other state.

Recycled real Christmas trees have been use to make sand and soil erosion barriers and been place in ponds for fish shelter.

Artificial trees will last for six years in your home, but for centuries in a land fill.

An acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.

In 1971 the government concluded that Christmas tree tinsel made of lead was a health risk and convinced manufactures to voluntarily stop producing lead tinsel. It is now made of plastic.

Live Christmas trees are involved in less than one-tenth of one percent of residential fires, and mostly when ignited by some external ignition sources (electrical problems, candles, heat sources).


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