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Are tall Christmas trees in short demand? Perfection could be hard to find

The 2022 Rockefeller Christmas tree is loaded into the plaza.
Ava Pukatch
The 2022 Christmas tree is loaded into Rockefeller Center.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree hails from the North Country this year. The 82-foot Norway Spruce was brought to New York City from Queensbury.

Each year more than 50,000 LED lights don the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree as it towers over New York City. The tree topped with a 900-pound star covered in 3 million crystals is a hallmark of the holiday season.

Bob MacGregor, the forest properties director at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, said there's plenty of Norway Spruce trees which tend to grow fast so there isn't a concern of Rockefeller Center not finding one.

"They have to find the one that have [the] perfect shape and that's probably harder than finding trees that big," MacGregor said.

The 2020 Rockefeller tree was called a Charlie Brown tree for its gaps with the New York Post reporting branch extensions were added in to give it the perfect look.

Some have decided to do away with the search for a perfect tree - turning to artificial trees instead. The City of Syracuse switched its Clinton Square Christmas tree to an artificial version in 2019 saying it would save the city time and money.

The American Christmas Tree Association, a nonprofit representing artificial tree manufacturers, reported that 84% of trees displayed in 2021 were artificial.

But, MacGregor explains, fake trees while reusable, are not necessarily better for the environment as they are typically made out of petroleum-based PVC plastic and likely made overseas.

“Artificial trees they say you'd have to use it almost 20 years in a row to make it as climate friendly, as a real tree,” MacGregor said.

So are real trees better? The growing period of the trees can help reduce greenhouse gas levels as the trees take in carbon from the atmosphere. MacGregor said its the disposal of the tree makes the difference — encouraging mulching trees rather than putting them into a landfill where if burned would release all the stored carbon back into the atmosphere.

The quest to find the perfect real tree could be a little easier in the future. Scientists are working on genetically modified seeds for optimum color and shape.

"People like a sort of blue-green. They have ones that grow slower, that fill in more, don't have as many holes in."

But even then, MacGregor said there's a beauty to the imperfect tree.

"I think there'll always be a market for the Charlie Brown tree."

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.