Sun | Jan 21, 2018

Making the most of the Jamaican Christmas tree

Published:Thursday | December 29, 2016 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams -Raynor
Jerome Smith
The Jamaican Christmas tree in pots at the Forestry Department.

JAMAICANS HAVE increasingly embraced the tradition of the Christmas tree, bringing to many homes and offices a touch of whimsical cheer for the holidays. But how does one make the most of the local Christmas tree, the Cupressus lusitanica? Jerome Smith, principal director of forest operation at the Forestry Department, suggests, to start with, purchasing the tree in a pot. That way, the tree remains alive while you do your pocket and the environment a good turn.

"If you look at it from a purely economic standpoint, if you are going to buy a four-foot tree at $800 a foot at Forestry and, on average, $1,000, on the road, you are paying $3,200 to $4,000 for a tree every year," he told The Gleaner.

"You can buy a tree in a pot for less than that and you can have it this year, next year and for years to come. And when you buy it in a pot, you retain it alive and it serves the function you want, but it still has the ability to retain its function, which is take up carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. It is a win-win for us and for the trees," Smith added.

The Forestry Department's own effort at income generation and the promotion of what it hopes will be a new trend began last year.

"We did the first batch late last year. We started selling around May this year. People are loving it and, of course, our prices are competitive because while we are not doing it at a loss, we are not doing solely for profit," Smith noted.

"The batch we have are two different sizes - 3 to 3 1/2 feet, which go for $3,000.00 and 3 1/2 and above for $3,500," he added.

So far, of the 97 planted, 60 have sold and Forestry is looking to expand.

"This size batch was in the eight-inch pots. We have found some people want smaller and some want larger. So we are going to six, eight and twelve inch pots," the director of forest operations revealed.


Smith's other suggestion is for customers who purchased cut trees.

"My advice would be that they recycle. Once they take it out, they can let it dry, cut it up and use it for a variety of things. If they have access to a chipper they can use it to mulch the tree and use it as conditioner for the soil. It stops erosion and retains moisture. You can also slice it into logs if you need fire wood," he noted.

For those without a chipper or access to one, there is the machete, which can prove handy, depending on the size of the tree.

Meanwhile, on maintaining your potted Cupressus lusitanica, Smith said it is a simple matter.

"When we sell it to you, we give it to you in a pot with conditioned soil. So you will need only to add water and maybe add a little fertiliser," he said.

Further, there is evidently no really worry over a burgeoning tree.

"The pot limits the root. It is just the nature of the tree. The roots are not as aggressive and can be contained," Smith said, adding that tree owners intent on larger trees will need only to transplant them.