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Fun natural facts about your Christmas tree

We’ve never had a real Christmas tree, as in a tree that was once living. I grew up in a house where my Mom hated to “watch something die in the living room.”

But this year we thought we’d give it a try; the whole getting a permit and chopping down your own tree bit. I broke the news to Ari today thinking he would be thrilled. Our conversation went something like this:

Ari: (disgusted tone) Mom! We can’t just go walking out into the forest and get a tree!! It would take like 30 hundred people to carry it back!

Me: Well, I was thinking we could just get a small tree…

Ari: We have a tree, it’s the tree we always use! It’s in the basement, we just need to put it together.

Me: Ya, but don’t you want to get a different tree this year?

Ari: (still disgusted) Why can’t you just be happy with what you already have?

While he does have a very good point, I still want to cut down my own Christmas tree. And I finally convinced Ari that while I am grateful for the 10 year old pathetic looking fake tree in the basement, it was still a good idea to try cutting our own, just once, to see if we’d like it.

So, while we are out in the woods focused on finding the perfect coniferous tree I thought I’d take advantage of the occasion and make a list of interesting factoids to throw in casual conversation with my children.

Here is what I came up with:

1. Why don’t coniferous trees shed their leaves? Actually, they do, just not all at once like deciduous trees. Instead they loose their leaves and grow new ones back just a few at a time all year long.

2. The oldest living organism in North America is a pine tree; a Bristlecone Pine that is 4,844 years old.When you chop down your tree count the rings to see how old yours is. Find the years your kids were born in the rings.

3. One acre (or less than the size of football field without the endzones) of Christmas trees provides for the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.

4. Some pine tree needles are high in vitamin C, that’s why if you were to bite the needle it tastes like an orange peel (try biting your Christmas tree needles and see). The tree is trying to taste bad to insects, which apparently don’t like the taste of orange peels.

5. Did you know there are boy and girl pine cones? They are usually on the same tree. One contains pollen, just like in flowers, and one contains everything else a tree needs to grow a seed–it is the bigger structure we most typically think of as a pine cone. It can take a conifer two years to grow a seed!

6. If you compare the east coast to the west coast there are more deciduous trees in the east, and more pine trees in the west. This is because both types of tree are specially adapted to the places where they find themselves (I may compare this to a Transformer, for Ari’s sake). Deciduous trees take advantage of the moisture in the air out east, the rich soils, and the (resulting) relatively infrequent fires. Conifers make the most of dry air, rocky soils, and wild fires.

7. Pine trees leaves are actually skinny needles. They are extra waxy so that the pine tree ‘sweats’ less and doesn’t lose much water–like wearing a rain jacket in reverse. Their skinny shape (as well as the cone shape of the tree) also makes it harder for snow to stick to them, so they can shed the heavy weight without breaking a branch. This is why pine trees can live in places no other trees can live, like really cold and/or dry places.

8. Coniferous trees are very good at dealing with fire. Some of them drop their lower branches so that fire on the ground can’t sneak up to the tops of the trees. Some have very thick bark that makes it hard for fire to get to their delicate insides. Some hide from the fire by growing in rocky areas or up very high, where fire seldom occurs. And some grow both ‘normal’ pine cones and ‘fire proof’ pine cones. The fire-proof cones (serotinous) distribute seed best when they’ve been ‘baked’ for a bit by fire. This means that even as a fire is sweeping through an area and burning up the competition, trees with these serotinous cones are sprinkling seeds to re-vegetate the area.

And before you discard your tree after the holidays be sure to check out this post on all the ways you can drink/eat your Christmas tree.

Do you have any facts to add?

5 Comments so far

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  1. Annita

    All conifers belong to a group of plants called gymnosperms. Gymnosperm literally means “naked seed” to indicate that gymnosperms don’t hide their seeds in fruit like an apple, kiwi or tomato. If your kids are anything like mine, any chance to say ‘naked seed’ is a great moment for them.

    • Annita, Just wanted to let you know what you were correct, the chance for the kids to say “naked” was a hit! Hahaa. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Becca

    A friend of mine had a family tradition of finding the perfect tree in the woods and then shooting it down instead of chopping it down. I guess it took a while….

    My mom, like yours, always refused to have a “real” tree in the house. She said it kind of ruined the holiday to have a tree carcass sitting there all season, reminding her that she killed something. She’s a big lover of trees.

    Can’t wait to see pictures of your prize from the forest!

    • Becca, Wow. Shooting it down! Hahaa, that actually sounds like something people would do here…

  3. Similarly to Knight and Day from earlier this summer, once the second half rolls around, most of the appeal is lost, and the movie becomes more of a financial thriller than a buddycop comedy.

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