Many tree professionals and Christmas tree buyers are not aware of how important it is to remove cones from fir trees.
Species such as Fraser fir can begin cone production only five or six years after planting, when trees are about six feet tall. Often, cones develop when trees are seven to ten feet tall.
Fir cones grow vertically in the top portion of a tree, and can be about three inches tall by the end of the summer. There can be hundreds of cones present. In 2015, we found one large tree with over 900 cones! Photo 1 shows a six-and-a-half foot tall Fraser with developing cones.
There are two main problems relating to cone production for Christmas tree growers. Biologically, a tremendous amount of energy goes into cone development, and accordingly, tree growth is lessened, particularly for sides and tree tops. Christmas tree growers want maximum new growth to help develop tree shape and density. These fir cones are a detriment.
The other concern is that fir cones disintegrate in the fall; if they are not removed, large holes or gaps are left where the cones were. This degrades Christmas trees by creating big openings that are not desirable – see Photo 2, a Fraser that did not have cones removed in 2017.
Cone removals require field workers to visit every tree, typically in late May, and hand pick every cone; you can imagine what this might cost. This is a significant part of our annual budget.
To summarize why we pick cones:
- Promotes increased side and top tree growth
- Eliminates unsightly gaps in Christmas tree tops
- Results in dense, high-quality trees that are appreciated by Christmas tree purchasers
Steigerwaldt Tree Farms
Steigerwaldt Land Services
To find out more about Steigerwaldt trees, please contact Ed at 715-453-3274.