Don’t let your dinosaur become a fiery Godzilla

As a follow-up to our earlier post, this week I dis­covered Washing State University has an Ornamental Plant Pathology Program(me) with a focus on Christmas Tree Research. They’ve recently been awar­ded over a mil­lion dol­lars to tackle things like Phytophthora root rot. It’s a ser­i­ous eco­nomic prob­lem for a region that sup­plies so many of North America’s Christmas trees.

They’ve also put out a press release on how to care for your Christmas Tree. If there’s one tip you should pick up it’s use water. Their Christmas tree expert Gary Chastagner is eager to drive home the point. “Most people don’t real­ize how much water a tree can take up once it’s indoors,” Chastagner says. “As a gen­eral rule, for each inch of stem dia­meter the tree will need a quart of water per day. So the aver­age four-inch dia­meter tree needs at least a gal­lon of water a day.”

I always thought you should cut stems at an angle to increase the sur­face area that a plant can draw water up from. When it comes to Christmas trees, I’m wrong. The press release notes: Cutting it at an angle or “whit­tling” the base of the tree to fit the stand ser­i­ously decreases the tree’s abil­ity to take up water.

It’s not just a mat­ter of aes­thet­ics. A mal­treated Christmas tree can pose a much more deadly threat than the CGI mon­sters of Jurassic Park. There are around twenty deaths each year in the US from fires involving sea­sonal dec­or­a­tions. This might seem odd to any­one with a wood burner in their house, as fresh trees are usu­ally poor fuel. However, Christmas trees have a few more haz­ards which this video shows.

They may be hun­dreds of mil­lions of years old, but con­ifers still need respect. If you have one in your home, we hope you have a safe Christmas.

Alun Salt. ORCID 0000-0002-1261-4283

When he's not the web developer for AoB Blog, Alun Salt researches something that could be mistaken for the archaeology of science. His current research is about whether there's such a thing as scientific heritage and if there is how would you recognise it?