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.

About the author

Alun Salt

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?