Foliage Friday: Merry Christmas (Tree)!

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Image source: here

In honor of this holiday, my Foliage Friday today is a brief exploration of the Christmas tree.

Growing up, we always only had a fake Christmas tree. Real trees were messy, and you had to go out and buy one every year, pay for it (an unnecessary expense) and dispose of it after the season was over. Too much work!

I always wished we had a real tree. I love the way they smell and I think there’s something special about picking out a unique tree each year. I’m probably over-romanticizing it, and when I finally have my own house with my own tree I will (in all likelihood) revert back to a faux tree.

There’s an old debate about which is more sustainable: a real tree or a faux tree?

The arguments in favor of real trees include the fact that faux trees are often produced in China, have to be shipped around the world (carbon emissions), are made of plastic, and sit in the landfill when people decide they want a new tree.

People used to argue that cutting down trees was bad. But that argument doesn’t seem to hold weight these days. Most trees are grown on Christmas tree farms, which are usually located on land that isn’t well-suited for growing other crops. More trees are planted for each tree that is cut down.

I think the consensus these days is that real trees are more sustainable than faux trees.

(However, my dad would probably argue that he’s had the same fake tree since the…80s? (before I was born at any rate), and there’s no point getting rid of it now. It would be wasteful to throw it out and switch to buying real trees each year. But if you’re thinking of buying a new fake tree, maybe…. think again?)

There are several different kinds of real Christmas trees to choose from. Most Christmas trees are either fir trees or spruce trees.

Fir trees include Noble Fir, Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir, and Douglas Fir.

Noble Fir
Douglas Fir

Spruce trees include Blue Spruce or Norway Spruce

Blue Spruce

How can tell these different types of trees apart? Both spruce and fir trees have needles that attach individually to the branch, unlike pine trees which have needles that attach to the branch in clusters. Fir trees have flat needles, whereas spruce trees have square needles. An easy mnemonic is: fir = flat and spruce = square.

I didn’t put up a tree this year, so instead, I’ll share another nice photo from the interwebs.

Image source: here

Merry Christmas!

Foliage Friday: Cyclamen

I passed by a house in our neighborhood this week and saw a bunch of pink flowers. Several of them had been freshly planted by landscapers. They looked very spring-y, and seemed a little out of place amongst all the fall leaves.

These flowers are familiar, but I couldn’t remember their name….

They’re cyclamen! (Thank you Google.)

Cyclamen are perennial flowers that tend to lay dormant in summer and then bloom sometime between fall and late winter or early spring (although some varieties bloom in the summer). So, they’re not completely out of place to be blooming in late November, and, in fact, some people use them as Christmas decor. Although I don’t think pink flowers fit with a Christmas scene, I do like the variegated leaves, and a white-blooming version could be pretty for Christmas.

Image from: Farmer’s Almanac

Cyclamen grow from round or pancake-like tubers. This is actually how they get their name (cyclamen comes from the word for cycle or wheel). A single planted in the right spot can live for hundreds of years.

Image from:

(But just in case you were thinking, “Doesn’t that tuber look tasty?” be aware that the Cyclamen tubers are poisonous if eaten raw.)

The right place to plant cyclamen tubers is in a temperate climate. Cyclamen are native to the Mediterranean (Greece, Italy, Turkey, Israel, etc), and thus like hot dry summers and mild, wet winters. They are, in fact, Israel’s national flower. Cyclamen is רקפת in Hebrew, which, I believe, is pronounced “rakefet”… I went down the rabbit trail and found a Hebrew song about cyclamen.

(Here’s a version with English subtitles.)

There are even cyclamen dances to this song…. enjoy.