Around this time each year, people across the globe engage in one of the most heated debates of our time: Whether or not it’s okay to put Christmas decorations out before Thanksgiving. The spectrum seems to split right down the middle relative to when the exact appropriate time is to start decking the halls and blaring Christmas music. For many, the excitement of Christmas is too strong to limit festivities to just one month, while others demonstrate restraint with a commitment to delaying celebrations until Thanksgiving has passed. If you fall into that first category by rolling out the Christmas spirit the moment the calendar flips to November, you and Uncle Sam have something in common.
Each year, the federal government selects a national forest to provide a Christmas tree to display on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This year, it was North Carolina’s turn to showcase the beauty its forests behold. “Ruby” the red spruce was selected from Pisgah National Forest, becoming the third Capitol Christmas Tree to have been selected from North Carolina. The state first supplied “The People’s Tree” in 1974 before making another run in 1998 and now in 2022.
The festivities began Nov. 2, 2022, when the 78-foot tree was harvested, carefully placed on a flatbed trailer and proceeded on a 14-day expedition to Washington, D.C. Along the voyage, Ruby made several stops to recline with communities from Murphy to Manteo, and even a few in Virginia, before arriving on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Local communities, schools, organizations, partner agencies and members of the public made more than 7,500 homemade and hand-crafted ornaments during the summer months before the big trip. This was an extra touch to make certain Ruby, along with several other smaller trees to be displayed across the D.C area, took a slice of North Carolina with them. Lighting the tree during a special ceremony November 29 provided the perfect ending to a long journey. When Ruby is finished gracing Capitol Hill with her presence, she’ll return home to Western North Carolina and continue to live on in more ways than one. The red spruce will be repurposed to provide a variety of services including musical instruments. Ruby will also reproduce and multiply as seeds collected from her cones will be grown into seedlings and contribute to the next generation of red spruce trees growing across the southern Appalachian region as part of reforestation efforts.
According to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, the state’s industry is ranked second in the nation in the number of trees harvested and cash receipts. The N.C. Forest Service Nursery and Tree Improvement Program (N&TI) has at least a little impact on that production. The N&TI Program is critical to the success of landowners in North Carolina and is necessary for ensuring they have access to the best genetics available. The program actively produces seed and/or seedlings of the major Christmas tree species produced in the state. Fraser fir, red spruce, eastern red cedar, Turkish fir, Trojan fir, Nordmann fir, Canaan fir, white pine and Virginia pine are among those that comprise North Carolina’s fleet of Christmas tree species. Fraser fir is considered by many to be the “gold standard” for Christmas trees, accounting for 94% of all species grown in the Old North State. It also represents 26% of all Christmas trees grown in the U.S., and it was the chosen species each of the previous instances where North Carolina supplied the Capitol Christmas Tree. Typically selling out of inventory, the N&TI Program supplies North Carolina Christmas tree growers with approximately 320,0000 seedlings annually.
Since 1924, the N.C. Forest Service has provided native tree seedlings of the highest quality for planting across every region of North Carolina. With the Claridge Nursery located at the Goldsboro Forestry Center, the Linville River Nursery located just outside Crossnore in western North Carolina and an annual tree seedling catalog, they continue to serve as a stable provider in the constantly changing tree seedling market. With an average annual production of 16 million seedlings, the Nursery Program produces enough tree seedlings to plant more than 30,000 acres of land each year. The N&TI Program is just another element in which the N.C. Forest Service continues to ensure North Carolina’s forestland remains healthy and thriving.
North Carolina’s Christmas tree industry is one that continues to thrive year in and year out. Ruby’s seat at Capitol Hill signifies the rich history and tradition of North Carolina’s forests. She will continue reproducing for future generations just as the N&TI Program will do for North Carolina. Ensuring that North Carolina remains first in forestry, the N.C. Forest Service continues to proudly supply a stable and quality product for Christmas tree growers throughout North Carolina.
To learn more about the N.C. Forest Service Nursery and Tree Improvement Program, watch this brief video at https://youtu.be/uC6lZpPySC0 and/or visit https://www.ncforestservice.gov/nursery/NurseryandTreeImprovement.htm. To order tree seedlings, visit www.buynctrees.com or call 1-888-NCTREES.