The Christmas tree industry in NC

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Photo by @wncfarmersmarket

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Our little corner of the state does Christmas trees in a big way. DYK: After Oregon, NC is the country’s top producer of holiday trees – primarily the native Fraser firs, which is indigenous to the US and only grows in higher elevations in the Southern Appalachian mountains (and what you probably think of when you imagine the iconic Christmas tree). 

This year, the demand for trees is higher than ever as people work to beautify their homes for the holidays instead of planning travel – and some local tree farms are already sold out or have closed for the season. Today, we’re breaking down the Christmas tree industry by the numbers here in NC

  • Our state produces 20% of all real Christmas trees in the country – in 2018, 99.4% of those were Fraser firs from WNC. The Fraser fir is known as the “perfect” Christmas tree because it smells great and the needles are soft + stay on longer than other conifers after it’s cut. Its branches are also strong enough to hold ornaments.
  • In 2017, there were 38,893 acres devoted to Christmas tree production in the state and about 200 choose-and-cut farms. Way back in 2008, choose-and-cut farms generated about $5 million in sales of over 250,000 trees.
  • Our state-grown Fraser firs have been chosen to grace the White House 13 times – last time in 2018.  
  • Although the Fraser fir is the most common Christmas tree grown here, you can get other varieties – especially if you’re down east. Eastern NC Christmas tree species include the Virginia + white pine, the Leyland cypress, the eastern red cedar + the giant green arborvitae
  • NC State University + its extension programs are involved in a lot of Christmas tree research. Specialists work at the university in Raleigh, as well as just a few minutes down the road in Mills River, at the Mountain Horticultural Research and Extension Center. Some research topics include propagation, insect management, environment + water quality, fertility, and genetics
  • Fraser firs, like another native conifer, Eastern hemlocks, are threatened by an invasive species – the balsam wooly adelgid. Infestation by the insect (which looks like a white, fuzzy substance on tree branches, bark + needles) results in the death of the tree after only a few years. 
  • Looking for a local tree this year? Find farms here. And remember, cut trees aren’t the only option – there’s a market for live Fraser firs as well, which are often sold at nurseries and garden centers, as well as at the WNC Farmers Market (which also sells plenty of cut trees).  

Want even more fantastic Fraser fir factoids? Get them here.

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