Best Christmas Trees in Montana and Where to Find Them
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The Christmas season is upon us and with it comes the yearly questions of what kind of Christmas tree will we get and where will we get it?
KGVO News spoke to Dr. Peter Kolb with MSU Extension and the University of Montana School of Forestry, who provided a complete guide on the different varieties available and where to find them in western Montana.
Dr. Peter Kolb is an Expert on Forestry and especially Christmas Trees
“We are blessed with having a lot of National Forest in western Montana, and with a permit, it is possible to go cut a Christmas tree off the National Forest,” began Dr. Kolb. “If I recall correctly, a permit for a Christmas tree is five dollars, and you're allowed up to three trees per household, which is very generous. However, you just have to remember that there are some areas that are off limits for cutting Christmas trees such as campgrounds and sensitive areas like river bottoms.”
Dr. Kolb, an expert on trees, described the various species available in Montana’s national forests.
Dr. Kolb Explains the Different Species of Christmas Trees Available
“Pines tend to be longer needled usually two needles, unless you get into white pines with five needles per fascicle,” he said. “They're longer; the tree is a little more open and a little sparser. When you get into Douglas Fir, they have shorter needles, but the needles are in a beautiful configuration around the branches, so each branch is fully needled much like a bottle brush that you would clean up bottles with, so they form nice shapes. Then when we get into wetter sites, higher elevation sites, we're into the true firs which are Grand Fir and Subalpine Fir.”
After selecting your tree, Dr. Kolb had excellent advice on how to properly care for the tree once it’s up in your home.
“As soon as you get home you want to recut the bottom inch or so off the stem and put in water immediately,” he said. “We do that because the stem is a series of fine straws that draw water up to the needles and we want to keep that functional so the needles stay hydrated and in the transport that lower inch will get the air pockets in it so it won't effectively draw water up into the stem anymore, which is why we cut the bottom inch off and then put it in the water right away.”
Dr. Kolb Explains why Fresh Water is so Important for your Christmas Tree
Dr. Kolb provided important reasons why fresh water is so important for your newly cut Christmas tree.
“A fresh Christmas tree will go through a gallon of water a day and I will do that for five to 10 days so I want to keep it well watered,” he said. “If the cut stem gets dry then you get the air pockets in the stem and it stops transporting water up to the needles.
Christmas tree permits are on sale at Recreation.gov and at your local ranger district office. One Christmas tree can be harvested per permit for $5/tree and up to three permits can be purchased per person. If you purchase through Recreation.gov a $2.50 transaction fee will apply.
Dr. Kolb is the author and voice behind the Montana Forestry Minutes heard on weekdays on Missoula's Townsquare Media stations.
Click the link below to hear the entire conversation with Dr. Peter Kolb.
Looking Back at One of Montana's Most Explosive Fires
Gallery Credit: Dennis Bragg