RALEIGH — Whether it’s the White House or the house down the street, North Carolina’s tree farms have some of the best live Christmas trees in the country.
The High-Country of the state is known for its scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, skiing, hiking and other outdoor pursuits. But it’s also known as “America’s Christmas tree capital.” The title is well-earned, as the state’s Fraser firs have been chosen a record-setting 13 times to be the official Christmas tree of the White House, with eight of the trees coming from Ashe County.
In 2018, a 19-foot, 800-pound Fraser Fir from Mountain Top Fraser Fir Farm in Newland was picked to be displayed in the Blue Room of the White House
According to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, Fraser Firs, considered to be one of the most desirable and fragrant trees, represent 94% of all trees grown in the state.
The Fraser fir is a pyramid-shaped tree named after John Fraser, a Scottish botanist who explored the mountainous areas of North Carolina in the late 1700s. These trees only grow naturally above 3,000 feet in the southern Appalachian Mountains.
Other species grown in the state include several varieties of pine trees, Arizona cypress (especially the Carolina Sapphire variety), Leyland cypress, Norway spruce and the Eastern red cedar.
Christmas tree sales brought in over $86 million to NC in 2017, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s most recent Census of Agriculture report. In fact, the Tarheel state is second in the nation in terms of production of live trees. North Carolina annually harvests over 4 million trees, accounting for around 26% of Christmas trees grown domestically.
The tree one picks out may even be older than some family members helping to pick it out because it can take an average of 12 years to grow a 6 to 7-foot-tall tree.
Choosing a real tree is also a good choice for the environment, as they are biodegradable. Some tree lovers worry they are eliminating tree acreage, but for each tree harvested, three seedlings are planted to replace it. The farms also have a stabilizing effect on soil, and one acre of Christmas trees can produce the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people.
Searching for that perfect live tree is an annual tradition for many, but it is also becoming a travel-related holiday event. Many people plan trips to “choose-and-cut” Christmas tree farms in the western half of the state. Others stay closer to home, scouting out tree farms near urban areas like Raleigh.
Both the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association and the Eastern North Carolina Christmas Tree Growers Association maintain lists of choose-and-cut growers that offer holiday experiences and activities like hayrides or visits with Santa.
Family memories can also be made by providing a tree for military members through Trees for Troops, a program run by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable branch of the National Christmas Tree Association.
The program has run for 14 years, and FedEx has helped to distribute over 225,300 free, live Christmas trees to troops and military families at over 70 military bases in the U.S. and overseas. For more information, visit TreesForTroops.org.