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Real Texas Christmas Trees Boost Economy

COLLEGE STATION, Texas: More than four million real Christmas trees are sold annually in Texas, supporting farms and agriculture businesses throughout the state. As the holiday season nears, Texas A&M Forest Service encourages purchasing real Christmas trees to help boost the Texas economy.

Texas A&M Forest Service recently conducted an economic study showing how much value the natural Christmas tree industry adds to the state. In 2022, the sector generated economic impacts amounting to more than $714 million, including direct, indirect, and induced effects, while supporting nearly 6,000 jobs. Of $714 million in total impacts, the Texas Christmas tree industry had a direct economic impact of $397 million, employing 3,896 people with a payroll of more than $97 million.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates for 2022 rank the Texas Christmas tree industry second in the U.S. South based on average annual employment and wages.

“It’s a tradition in many households to have a real Christmas tree,” said Dr. Aaron Stottlemyer, Texas A&M Forest Service Forest Analytics Department Head. “The process of going as a family to pick out a tree is a fun activity that supports rural economies across the state.”

While many may not think of southern states as growing many Christmas trees, they are grown in all 50 states. The most widely grown Texas Christmas trees are the Virginia pine, Afghan pine, eastern redcedar shortleaf pine, Arizona cypress, and Leyland cypress.

The first recorded Christmas tree planting in Texas was in 1935 Jasper, Texas. Since the 1970s, institutions such as Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas A&M University, and Stephen F. Austin have worked toward optimizing the health and growth of Christmas tree species to enhance the State’s Christmas tree industry.

“The Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association and Texas A&M Forest Service have been collaborating since the early 1980s,” said Fred Raley, Texas A&M Forest Service Tree Improvement Coordinator. “The collaboration has worked to develop locally-adapted Virginia pines, especially hardy and adapted to the Texas climate, to ensure that those that prefer a live tree can continue to have that Christmas experience for a very long time.”

In the U.S., the sale of real Christmas trees has decreased since 2018, and since 2020, the sale of artificial trees has been higher than that of real trees. But choosing a real Christmas tree should always be considered. Not only is cutting down Christmas trees good for our economy, but it is also essential for our ecosystem and forest sustainability.

After the holiday season, real Christmas trees can be repurposed and recycled for many uses. You can use real Christmas trees as landscape mulch in yards and gardens for soil erosion prevention, bird nest-building materials, and natural water habitats for fish and wildlife in ponds or lakes.

Stottlemyer explains that the Christmas tree industry is crucial to fulfilling the trees’ lifecycle, expanding trees’ potential beyond their natural life, and creating sustainable forests and economies.

“Christmas tree farms are essentially young forests,” said Stottlemyer. “They can provide us the same benefits as traditional forests by sequestering carbon, providing a natural habitat for wildlife, cleaning our water, and providing recreational opportunities.”

Real Christmas tree shoppers can visit the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association website to explore each Texas region’s different Christmas tree farms.