NC State Extension

Freshness Problems: When Care Issues Arise

Problem Description Solutions
Dessication

Dry tree

Dry tree

When trees become excessively dry, they lose their rich green color. Their brances and bark shrivel. Needles become brittle and prone to breaking off. Very dry trees may not take up water. Dessicated trees may be a fire hazard and should not be sold.
  • Reduce exposure to hot sun and drying wind.
  • Water the trees where they stand, either in storage or display.
  • Water soil or mulch under stored trees.
  • Cull problem trees.
Needle Loss

Needle loss

Needle loss

Needle loss is a complex problem that can result from variation among species, from tree to tree, or from year to year. Needle loss is generally more of a problem after exposure to sun and wind. Many water additives increase saltines of the water, increasing needle loss.
  • Reduce exposure to hot sun and drying wind.
  • Water the trees where they stand, either in storage or display.
  • Use fresh water only.
  • Do not use water additives.
Trunk Cracks

Trunk cracks

Trunk cracks

Fresh trees with cracks take up water normally. The development of a crack in the trunk of a Christmas tree is complex. Cracks result from capillary tension, the same force that causes a milkshake straw to collapse when you suck on it too hard. Cracks can occur any time fresh trees dry rapidly.
  • As with other problems, minimize factors that dry trees out.
  • Put the tree in water. Often the crack will close up and become less noticeable.
  • Cracks can be clamped shut with hose clamps or be bolted shut with a lug bolt.
String Burn

String burn

String burn

String burn occrs to the constricted branches of string-baled Christmas trees when the tree is exposed to direct sunlight or wind. It only occurs to baled trees and can occur after as little as an hour or two of severe exposure.
  • Minimize exposure of baled trees to sun or wind.
  • Unbale your trees on arrival or as soon as practical.
  • If you must leave trees baled to conserve space, store baled trees under full shade.
Sunscald

Sun scald damage

Sun scald damage

Sunscald is very similar to string burn, but whole sides or the top of a tree can turn brown, not just constricted branch tips. Sunscald can result in localized color problems & needle loss. Exposure to high temperatures, sun, or wind can kill foliage that has no reserve of water to draw from.
  • Reduce exposure to hot sun and drying wind.
  • Even partial exposure can result in areas of sunscald on a tree.
  • Water the trees where they stand, either in storage or display.
Failure to Take Up Water

Failure to take up water

Failure to take up water

Only very dry trees fail to take up water. If no fresh cut is made, resin can seal the trunk and limit water uptake. Sometimes in a very dry tree, an air bubble blocks water from entering the trunk even when a fresh cut is made on the trunk. This problem is very rare among Fraser fir with only a handful of reports from five million trees shipped each year.
  • Make a fresh cut off the base of the trunk (1/2 inch or more) before the customer takes the tree.
  • Dry trees can take a day or two to start taking up water.
  • Consider replacing trees that do not take up water under proper care, since a dry tree can be a fire hazard.