“The best Christmas trees come very close to exceeding nature.” –Andy Rooney

You might be thinking about heading out to get your Christmas tree in the next few weeks. An interesting fact about the Christmas tradition of a tree was conceived by St. Boniface. According to him, the Christmas tree symbolizes a promise of eternal life. Decorating an evergreen with apples, along with small white wafers is quite an old European custom. Later, cookies or pastries replaced the wafers. Pastries were cut into shapes of bells, flowers, angels and hearts, thus the tradition of sugar cookies in various shapes took place.

The use of real Christmas trees for the holidays is a long-standing tradition. Each year, 25–30 million American families celebrate with a fresh, farm-grown Christmas tree. Wisconsin harvests 1.8 million trees annually and is ranked fifth in the nation for number of trees harvested. The smell of a fresh tree is a reminder and symbol of life, family traditions, and the innocence of childhood. The Christmas tree is food for the soul.

The most sought-after tree is the balsam fir, a Wisconsin native, and a truly superb Christmas tree, with short, flat needles. It has a lovely green color and is very fragrant. Its cones fall apart while still on the tree, so you rarely see them.

The second most sought-after tree is the Frasier fir, a beautiful tree with needles about 1 to 1 1/4-inch long. The branches are strong and the needles soft and they remain on the tree throughout the holiday season. This tree has a very pleasant fragrance.

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A spruce tree has short, stiff, sharp needles and strong branches. They can be very attractive when properly cared for in the nursery. There are several types of spruce, such as white spruce, Black Hills spruce, and blue spruce. All spruces have a bad aroma when crushed, but are very sturdy trees.

White pine is an excellent Christmas tree. It’s a tree that made Wisconsin famous in the logging days. This tree has soft, long needles with a blue-green color; a hint of white makes this tree a favorite of buyers. The needles are two to five inches long in bundles of five. They will retain their needles throughout the holiday season. The downside is that they have a bad aroma when crushed.

Scotch pine has been a favorite tree of retailers and consumers. It’s a bushy tree with one and a half to three inch needles that are stiff, flattened, twisted and spreading. The needles have a blue-green color and have bundles of two. This tree was originally imported from Europe. The Scotch pine has excellent needle retention and survival rate. It is the most common Christmas tree in the United States.

Another of the top Christmas trees on my list is the Douglas fir. This tree has a dark green or green-blue color. Needles are one to one and a half inches and radiate in all directions. This tree has the wonderful fragrance of Christmas when the needles are crushed.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at Phyllis.both@saukcountywi.gov or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.

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