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The Humble Sand Pine Christmas Tree

Updated on December 23, 2014

A Sand Pine Christmas Tree

A Florida Sand Pine Christmas Tree
A Florida Sand Pine Christmas Tree

Common Christmas Trees

The northern United States boasts the Scotch pine, white pine, Balsam fir, and Frazer fir for Christmas trees. The western United States have the Douglas fir, white fir, pinon pine, and even the southwestern pine. Florida has, well, the humble sand pine.

The Sand Pine

The sand pine (Pinus clausa) is a native to Florida. It grows in central Florida and along some of the coastal dunes in Florida's panhandle. Typical sand pines grow about 40 feet when mature with about a 12 inch diameter at breast height. They grow in infertile, well drained soils and are found in Florida's scrub ecosystem or in ecotones between scrub and pine flatwoods. They are dioecious, meaning there are male and female trees. They have limited commercial value for firewood and pulpwood. They are harvested mostly from the Ocala National Forest for pulpwood.

Why a Sand Pine Christmas Tree in Florida?

The sand pine is really Florida's only native Christmas tree. They are not commonly sold by roadside vendors. Most people have to cut their own if they want one. While an uncultivated tree is not shaped as well as a farmed raised tree, with enough searching you can find a satisfactory one in the scrub. A tree that is not surrounded by scrub or palmettos will have a fuller understory and conical shape. A fresh cut sand pine keeps its needles over the holidays. Sand pines also have a wonderful, gentle pine aroma and exude very little sap. The needles are moderate in length, soft to the touch, and easily allow the placement of ornaments and lights. Granted, the branches of the tree are weak and preclude the use of heavy ornaments and lights. Our family cuts a sand pine about every third Christmas. It can take some time to find just the right tree while picking your way through the scrub. When the right tree is finally located, there is a sense of reward and accomplishment.

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