Drought Influences Californians to Rethink their Christmas Tree Purchases

drought, arid, weather‘Tis the season to think of the environment!

At least this is what Californians have in mind as they look ahead to the holidays. A new survey by the American Christmas Tree Association has found that nearly 1 in 3 California residents are taking the drought into account while shopping for a tree.

“Thirty percent said the drought would definitely impact their choice of a Christmas tree, and that’s fairly significant,” Jami Warner, the director of the American Christmas Tree Association told The Christian Science Monitor.

About 18 percent of respondents claim that they are switching from a real to artificial tree this year.

In California, the lack of rain has stunted the growth of many trees being grown for the holiday season, according to ABC 7 News.

“The buds aren’t quite as large as they should be and the needles aren’t as long as they should be,” Paul Illingworth, owner of Castro Valley Tree, told the news source. “What’s happened is the drought has done has kept the trees smaller than they have in the past.”

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, water deficit can have an extreme adverse effect on a tree’s growing process or kill it. Those that survive are more prone to insect and disease pests. Pine trees do not typically “wilt” from drought stress, and they will retain their needles for up to two years. However, they may be attacked by pine bark beetles, which inevitably kill them over time.

California residents (and others) who still prefer to go with a fresh tree for the holidays can make it worth their while by taking care of it once it’s home. A study published by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point discovered that fresh water can reduce needle loss. Many people add items, such as sugar or aspirin, to the water for further preservation. However, research cannot determine if this has a significant benefit.

The average Christmas tree absorbs one quart of water per inch of its diameter. This can be used as a guideline for homeowners who want to keep an eye on water levels throughout the holiday season.

But don’t let the drought be the only thing that influences your tree purchase this year. As it turns out, you may benefit the environment by going with a real tree, as opposed to an artificial one. A tree farmer grower typically plants one-to-three seedlings for each tree it harvests, according to the South Carolina Christmas Tree Association. Furthermore, the average life of an artificial tree is just six-to-nine years before it ends up in a landfill.

How is that for some holiday food for thought?


Bagley, Mary. “What’s the Best Way to Keep Your Holiday Christmas Tree Fresh?” Livescience. December 6, 2013.

Harrington, Elissa. “California Drought Stunts Christmas Trees.” ABC 7 News. November 29, 2015.

Schouten, Lucy. “California drought: What it means for Christmas trees.” Christian Science Monitor. November 21, 2015.

“Environmental Benefits of Real Christmas Trees.” South Carolina Christmas Tree Association. Retrieved December 1, 2015.

“Effects of Drought Stress on Trees and Landscape Plants.” Texas A&M Forest Service. Retrieved December 1, 2015.

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