Well here we are again on Little St. Simons Island, Georgia for the holidays. A yearly tradition and sojourn for family Berolzheimer. In another day or two the remaining family members will arrive and well set off for our annual Christmas Tree hunt. I call it a hunt as that’s just what it takes to find a suitable holiday tree on Little St. Simons. No plastic Chinese produced tree or perfectly proportioned fir from the Christmas tree lot for us. Always a naturally grown Southern Redcedar, cut fresh from our own property.
Now a cedar, or more properly in this case a juniper, is not your typical Christmas tree. More a bush than a tree in this coastal barrier island environment, the Southern Red Cedar is not the prototype ornament hanger with its scrappy, lightweight branches. A one hour pickup truck ride and hike, bundled up against the cold, looking for something resembling the traditional conical shape, stopping here and there, inspecting possibilities, casting our votes, lobbying amongst one another for which tree will work best for us this year. The most well proportioned trees we find are always too big even for our central high ceiling location. The smaller ones tend to have some natural defect from growing too close together or up against a prickly pear or Myrtle bush, only discovered upon closer inspection. Finally, we choose and cut, always a compromise from the ideal. A picnic lunch follows and the late afternoon and evening are spent propping up the tree, hanging lights and ornaments even wiring it to the wall so the excessive ornament weight doesn’t tumble the tree to the floor. The result though not the mainstream “perfect tree” is our own form of perfection.
Often we consider whether we might simply take a half acre or so to plant and properly manage a number of trees including more suitable Christmas tree species so we can have better trees in future years. Of course the cedar tradition is in our blood as a family and here at Little St. Simons Island. Originally the property was purchased by the Eagle Pencil Company (LSSI Timeline see 1908) to harvest the taller commercial size Southern Redcedars (Juniperus Virgniana subspec Silicicola)for pencil wood supply back in the days when it’s cousin the Eastern Redcedar, Juniperus Virginiana, was the preferred species by pencil manufacturers. However growing conditions for commercial size Cedars were not ideal and the economics of harvesting on and transporting from an island proved. Instead the property has become a family retreat and now can also be your private Island hideaway.
While we have not chosen to become Christmas tree farmers over 21,000 other owners have nationwide. A little research at the National Christmas Tree Association website yields some of the following interesting facts:
- There are from 500,000 acres of commercial Christmas tree farms in the United States which sell from 25-30 million trees each year.
- The most common species are balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, and white pine.
- Every acre of Christmas Trees grown produces the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people.
- Beyond being a renewable resource increasing number of real Christmas trees are recycled each year. Find a recycling program here.
- The average artificial Christmas tree of which China produces 80%, are used for 6-9 years before ending up in a landfill, though I suppose there may be some recycling opportunities growing for these imitators.
- A Real Tree is five time more environmentally compatible than a plastic tree, according to this study by Swedish researchers.
So good luck with your Christmas Tree hunt this year if it’s still to come. Choose wisely and if you can try a cedar or at least a few Palominos, Forest Choice of Golden Bears under the tree if the real thing is not an option. Most importantly enjoy a wonderful and joyous holiday season