O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

Elizabeth Marenzi —  20/12/2013

The pine tree—decorated with luxe swathes of red, green and gold tinsel, bells, beads and baubles, sweetly scenting the house—is one of my favourite things about Christmas.

My Christmas tree.

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, Much pleasure do you bring me!

For me, it’s the role of the pine tree during the festive season that makes me love it.

Another good (if not quite so romantic) reason to love the pine is its contribution to our economy—as a stalwart of our forestry industry.

Mangakino, Waikato, NZ. Photo: Sarah Macmillan (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Timber country. Photo: Sarah Macmillan

And our appreciation of pine is reciprocated—they flourish in the favourable conditions New Zealand provides for them.

So, while the mutual benefits of the relationship are undeniable, its not all roses (or should I say pine cones?) Because pines have, in fact, become a nuisance in many parts of the country, springing up uninvited, like that snotty nosed kid from down the street (that’s just poetic licence of course—the kids in my neighbourhood are all, without exception, delightful creatures).

These gatecrashers are called wilding pines. They compete for space with our native trees and plants, but provide none of the advantages, such as berries and nectar, to encourage bird life and insects. Their pine needles form a carpet, discouraging regeneration of native plant species. Aesthetically, wilding pines change our landscape.

The rapid invasion of Pinus nigra into well grazed highcountry pasture. Google Earth shows this area almost completely free of pines in 2006.

Rapid invasion: Google Earth shows this area of highcountry pasture almost completely free of pines in 2006. Photo: Jon Sullivan

DOC is responsible for wilding tree infestations on public conservation land but are by no means the only ones taking action.

Manu, Rachel, and Jenny deal to a wilding pine in the Tekapo Scientific Reserve. Photo: Jon Sullivan (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Students dealing to a wilding pine in the Tekapo Scientific Reserve.
Photo: Jon Sullivan

Some trampers and hunters carry little folding saws to cut down small wilding pines. If you do this, it’s important to cut down the whole tree stump and not leave any branches or green needles behind (so I’m told—I really don’t have personal experience or expertise on this!). Extremely small seedlings can be pulled out by hand which is very effective as there is no risk of re-growth.

The saying, “a weed is just plant in the wrong place” springs to mind as I wrap up this ode to the darker side of my beloved Christmas tree.

Our native landscapes, species and ecosystems are too precious to give up to the pine tree. The corner of my lounge in December, on the other hand, is quite simply the perfect place.

Elizabeth Marenzi

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Elizabeth is part of the communications team at DOC. She enjoys reconnecting the urban desk jockeys of the world with nature—believing it to be the best anecdote for “tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people.”

2 responses to O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

  1. 

    For years members of the Combined 4WD Clubs have been battling this curse in Canterbury along with ECAN and Tramping Clubs. We are happy to say we have had a win in one area and making progress every year in another.
    Club Members carry pruning saws and axes to deal with any they can get to and on a recent trip on the Grampians spent a good deal of time and effort dealing to them. These were up at high level without an obvious source of seed.
    When we are out there doing this the call over the radios is “No Green Needles”