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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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New Mexico Christmas Trees Better Than Imports

LAS CRUCES - Your Christmas tree will remain fresher and last longer if you use a tree that was raised in New Mexico, according to a specialist with the New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.


"For a fresher and more traditional tree, buy or cut a native evergreen," said Bob Cain, Extension forest specialist.

There are a few Christmas tree growers in New Mexico, mostly in the southern part of the state, where elderica pine has become popular. Some nurseries offer container-grown trees that can be transplanted after Christmas. Trees also can be cut or dug from national forest lands, if you first obtain a permit.

Trees shipped in from the Northwest or Midwest may have been cut and bundled as early as October, Cain said. Some trees, like Scotch pine, will yellow in the winter, so they are sprayed with green latex paint before they are harvested and shipped.

To keep your New Mexico Christmas tree fresh, slice a few inches from the bottom of the trunk before putting it into the stand and water it daily, Cain said.

Place the tree in a cool room and away from south-facing windows that get direct sunlight. Keep the tree away from vents and other heat sources. Use small lights, which produce less heat than the large old-fashioned kind.

"If you choose a live, container-grown tree, make sure that it is one that will thrive well in your area", Cain said.

The roots of live trees must not be allowed to dry out, even when they're outside. Don't keep a live tree indoors for more than two weeks. If it breaks dormancy in the winter, it may not survive transplanting.

State law requires that cut Christmas trees sold in New Mexico have a tag attached to one of their branches. This assures that the tree was cut on private land with the owner's permission. Landowners wishing to sell trees from their property should contact the nearest state forestry district office to obtain these tags.

People who wish to chop or dig a tree from national forest land must contact the appropriate U.S. Forest Service district office for a permit.

Many species of native evergreens will work well as Christmas trees, Cain said. Piflon pine has a conical shape, is short-needled, fragrant and readily available. White fir is a traditional favorite with its medium length, blue-green foliage and silvery bark.

Douglas fir, with its darker green foliage and short needles, often has its branches strung*together for wreaths and garlands. Southwestern white pine is a beautiful tree, but its flexible branches tend to droop beneath the weight of ornaments. Its foliage contrasts nicely in a wreath with Douglas fir. Blue spruce has the perfect Christmas tree shape, but it begins dropping its prickly needles soon after they start to dry. Ponderosa pines' long stiff needles make decorating difficult, Cain added.