Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Real or fake?

It's a classic question every holiday season: real or artificial? When it comes to convenience, you can't beat a quick trip to the attic to retrieve that oldie, but goodie, artificial tree. Most come pre-lit or already dusted with faux snow. For others, it just isn't Christmas without the smell of pine permeating the homestead. The mess, the allergy-induced sniffling, the fire danger — all worth it. But even once the big question is out of the way, questions abound. Here's a guide to surviving the selection and decoration of the holiday classic. (Eggnog not included.)

Paper or plastic?

The Christmas tree industry — yes, industry because it has its own trade group — touts the benefits of live trees. They are classic, they have a pine scent and they are biodegradable.

That makes them enjoyable, unless you object to hauling them, littering your floor with pine needles and scrubbing the sap off your fingers in between making sure the stand has enough water for Mr. Tannenbaum. Allergy sufferers should also beware.

If a real tree isn't for you, you can go with a fake tree sold at most big retailers. They have increased in popularity, but a survey by tree growers showed 28 million farm-grown trees were purchased in 2009 compared with 11 million artificial ones. Still, consider that you have to buy an artificial tree only once.

Choosing the right tree

For starters, make sure to figure out how big a space your tree can occupy in your home. Then, figure out which species of tree you like best. ( christmastree.org offers help).

At the lot, ask how often trees are delivered. Check freshness: Needles should break crisply on fresh trees such as firs, though pine tree needles shouldn't.

If you go to a tree farm, make sure you think about width as well as height. At farms, some trees' width will actually be close to their height, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Hey, Paul Bunyan!

For some people, it's not enough to buy a tree off a sales lot. No, they've got to go all out and cut a tree down themselves. There's more than one way.

At Ergle Christmas Tree Farm near Dade City, they'll provide the saw and the string to bundle a tree. Cost is $25 and up, according to its website (ergletrees.com).

If you're even more adventurous than that, you can traverse the Florida tundra to Ocala National Forest. There, for the price of a $7 permit, you can select and cut your own tree. The U.S. Forest Service started selling permits Nov. 26.

Keep tree and house standing

It's always good to check that the stand has plenty of water. Make sure the trunk is freshly cut. Keep the tree away from heat sources and fireplaces.

Which means no lighted candles on the tree. Place decorative candles in a sturdy, heat resistant place.

Lights should have labels showing they have been tested, and shouldn't be frayed. The manufacturer should note how many strings can be connected safely.

An artificial tree should be labeled "fire resistant." While that doesn't mean it can't catch fire, it does indicate that it is more resistant to burning.

If the artificial tree is metallic, use extreme caution if using electric lights or decorations. Faulty wiring can cause the tree to become electrified.

Keeping it green

Many cities and neighborhoods have drop-off programs or even pick-up service to recycle live trees.

While artificial trees are reusable, they often are made from non-biodegradable materials. Many come from China and are shipped overseas, adding to the carbon footprint they leave behind, environmentalists warn.

Tree farms market themselves as environmentally friendly because they promote the growth of oxygen-generating trees.

On the tree, LED lights use less energy and produce less heat.

Sources: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, National Christmas Tree Association, U.S. Forest Service, Environmental Defense Fund, Times files Photo from iStock.com.

Real or fake? 11/28/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 10:46am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 10th resident from sweltering Hollywood nursing home dies

    Public Safety

    A 10th person from the Hollywood nursing home that turned into a deadly hothouse after the facility lost power following Hurricane Irma has died, Hollywood police said.

    The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, 1200 N. 35th Ave. [EMILHY MICHOT | Miami Herald]
  2. Feeling mental fatigue after Hurricane Irma and other disasters? It's real.

    Consumer

    TAMPA — Blackness. Eyes closed or open, the same.

    A Tampa Bay Times reporter in a sensory deprivation tank used for floating therapy at Sacred Floats & Gems Co. located at 6719 N Nebraska Avenue, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Floating therapy relaxes people because they experience a sense of zero gravity when they are inside the tank, which contains 150 gallons of water and 1000 pounds of medical grade Epsom salt. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  3. Trump vows more sanctions on North Korea

    World

    President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to impose more sanctions on North Korea as he prepared to meet with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea to seek a common strategy in confronting the isolated nuclear-armed state.

    U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters on Sept. 19, 2017. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 in New York described as "the sound of a dog barking" Trump's threat to destroy his country. [Associated Press]
  4. Tampa chamber of commerce votes against tax increase on business property

    Retail

    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on Thursday voted against supporting a city of Tampa plan to raise taxes on commercial properties in the city for 2018. The property tax, included in the city's proposed $974 million budget, would boost taxes from $5.73 to $6.33 for every $1,000 in property value.

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce voted against supporting a city tax hike on commercial property. Pictured is Bob Rohrlack, CEO of the chamber. | [Times file photo]
  5. How should St. Pete make up for dumping all that sewage? How about a street sweeper?

    Blogs

    Every crisis has a silver lining.

    In the case of St. Petersburg’s sewage crisis, which spawned state and federal investigations and delivered a state consent decree ordering the city to fix a dilapidated sewer system, the upside is figuring out how to satisfy the $810,000 civil penalty levied by the Florida …

    City Council chairwoman Darden Rice said it was important to chose carefully because residents will be paying attention.