A Real North Carolina Christmas Tree Makes Scents

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By Paige PattersonExtension Agent – N.C. Cooperative Extension, Watauga County Center

For as long as I remember, the smell of a real North Carolina Christmas tree has played a part in creating my Christmas memories. Putting up the tree after Thanksgiving and coming home each day to its fragrance fills me with anticipation of the good times that will be shared with family and friends during the holiday season. 

North Carolina Christmas Tree Farm

Photo by Paige Patterson

It may be tempting as you walk through your local home improvement center to pick up one of those pre-lit, artificial, tree-shaped Christmas decorations. It could even have a scent, but that “new tree” smell, much like the smell of a new car, could be the release of volatile organic compounds that can be harmful to your health. While many people think they are allergic to the fragrance of a real Christmas tree, often what is causing the reaction is the pollen that has collected on the tree out in the field. Christmas tree growers leave many pollen-producing plants in their fields because natural insect predators often feed on pollen, while their offspring feed on insect pests of Christmas trees. Fortunately, the pollen is easily washed off, so when you get your tree back to your house, just rinse it off well with a garden hose, and allow it to dry before bringing it inside. 

North Carolina is the top producer of Christmas trees in the eastern United States and the majority of those trees are Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri), native to the highest peaks in North Carolina. Buying a North Carolina tree helps to support agriculture in North Carolina. In the western part of the state, Christmas trees are grown on steep land that would not sustainably produce annual crops. These tree farms allow families to use their land to market an agricultural product, therefore, preserving agricultural land. 

Christmas tree farm on a hiside

Photo by Paige Patterson

There are many ways to find your own fresh, fragrant tree. You can create memories by visiting a choose and cut farm where you get to experience being out on a farm. Many offer amenities such as farm animals, hayrides, Santa Claus, hot chocolate, and apple cider, as well as lots of photo opportunities.

Kids at Christmas tree farm

Photo by Paige Patterson

To find farms across the state, explore this list of Christmas tree associations at the NC State Extension Christmas Tree portal.

Many of the farms also run tree lots in North Carolina cities. To find one in your city visit this NC Christmas Tree Association website. You will also find trees at all the major home improvement stores and other major retailers.

For more on North Carolina Christmas Trees, visit the NC State Extension Christmas Tree portal.