Follow an Evergreen’s Surprisingly Long Journey From Seed to Christmas Centerpiece

by Victoria Santiago
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We don’t really think about the process that Christmas trees go through before they end up in our homes. Everything about Christmas trees has taken years to cultivate – from their classic triangle shape to even their mere existence.

94 million Americans will use a tree to decorate their house for Christmas this year. That number includes real and fake trees, of course. Around 25 million to 30 million real trees are sold by farms every year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

The Love and Care-Filled Life of a Christmas Tree

The life of an evergreen starts in seed form. To emphasize how painstaking the process is, the seeds aren’t randomly found or picked. No, instead, people climb to the tops of already existing trees and look for the perfect seed-filled cone to take down with them.

Once the seed has been taken from a tree, it is sowed in a small cup of dirt and fertilizer. Afterward, it’s placed in a Styroblock, which is a small and skinny cylinder. It’s kept in a greenhouse, where moisture and nutrient levels are monitored. The temperature is also monitored because the trees are sensitive to heat. If it gets too hot for them, they’ll die. Fans are usually installed to offset the heat of summer.

After the first year, an evergreen tree will have grown to be six inches tall. After rooting, the tree will be transplanted into an outdoor pot. The trees require lots of water. They usually get it via irrigation, but sometimes they still die. Wildfires, droughts, and heatwaves can all kill young trees. Frost is also damaging to them.

After being in the outdoor pot for two years, the Christmas tree will be 18 inches tall. At that point, it’ll be planted into the ground. Hillsides work best for evergreens because it keeps water from pooling around them. Because of their position on a hill, machinery can’t get to them. They need to be cultured as they grow. Thus, they’re sheared by hand every year. The process repeats every summer for around seven or so years. Clipping the trees keeps them full and gives them their conical shape.

The End of the Journey

Most trees are ready to leave the farm after a decade of care and growth. Tags are hung on the trees that are ready to go, and then they’re cut down with a chainsaw. The Christmas trees are wrapped up for transport and sent off. Their journey doesn’t stop there, though. After an eventful season covered in ornaments and lights, the trees are often recycled. Cities use them to make mulch. There are other uses for them too, but the main point is that the cycle continues. The trees end up being both beautiful and useful.

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