By Ellen Powell, VDOF Conservation Education Coordinator
Early Tuesday morning, a team of foresters gathered at Claybrooke Farm near Mineral to collect a special gift – the 2020 State Capitol Christmas tree.
The approximately 25-foot Norway spruce donated by the Carroll family will be displayed outside on the Capitol portico. This year’s tree lighting ceremony was closed to the public due to COVID concerns, but you can view the tree from a distance throughout the holiday season.
VDOF’s Jefferson work team members Michael Downey, Jonah Fielding, and David Powell, along with State Forester Rob Farrell, assisted with felling, loading, and transporting the tree to Richmond.
Locating and delivering the Capitol tree is an annual event for VDOF. About this time of year, many of us who work in the forestry field hear the question, “Isn’t it wasteful to cut down a tree just for Christmas?” The short answer is, “No!” The longer answer highlights the advantages of using real trees.
Christmas trees are a crop, just like corn or soybeans. Christmas tree growers simply harvest their crop less often – every 7 years, on average. While the trees are growing, they are sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, and they store that carbon until they biodegrade – a nice benefit for a warming planet.
Christmas trees are a renewable resource. Tree farmers plant new trees to replace those that are cut – 2 to 3 trees for every one harvested, according to the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association.
Christmas trees are also recyclable. Many localities chip the trees into mulch, to use in city landscaping or give away to citizens. Trees can be used to start brush piles for wildlife, or sunk in ponds to provide fish habitat. In some areas, recycled Christmas trees have stabilized stream banks or provided a foundation for new sand dunes along the coast.
By buying a locally grown tree, you support Virginia agriculture and your local economy. To help you find one, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services maintains a list of Virginia Christmas tree growers. Another option for a real tree is to use all or part of an evergreen from your yard that needs to come down. Planning ahead may even allow you to donate your tree to a local organization or municipality.
CBS19 shared a story about the tree harvest and the lighting ceremony that took place on December 2. Be sure to check out the Capitol tree if you’re in Richmond this month — and, check out one of Virginia’s farms for a tree of your own!