Tree-Incarnation: Christmas Trees Return To Nature (A Poem) Americans buy about 30 million live trees every year. Many end up as mulch, but in some communities they help rebuild dunes, create fish habitat and feed zoo animals. Hear the story of arborial resurrection in anapestic tetrameter.
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Tree-Incarnation: Christmas Trees Return To Nature (A Poem)

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Tree-Incarnation: Christmas Trees Return To Nature (A Poem)


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. It's that time of year when you see Christmas trees lying on the curb looking a bit worse for wear. Many of those trees will be chipped into mulch, but a few will make it back to nature as trees, thanks to some unusual recycling programs. NPR's Adam Cole has a few stories of tree rebirth from around the country, and he delivers them in rhyming verse.

ADAM COLE, BYLINE: It's the week after Christmas, and in every town, you'll see Christmas trees dying, their needles turned brown. Thirty million dead trees, that's what you'll find.

RICK DUNGEY: Just some more numbers to boggle your mind.

COLE: That's good old Rick Dungey, head of public relations, for the National Christmas Tree Association. He fields lots of calls and often they're dumb, or perhaps fueled by eggnog with way too much rum.

DUNGEY: My tree's doing great. It's still taking up water.

COLE: The calls start OK, but then they get odder.

DUNGEY: Will it regrow roots and continue to live?

COLE: Well, no, is the answer that Rick has to give. But there is still hope for all cross the nation, there's a sort of arboreal tree-incarnation. When everyone's done with their O Tannebaum - and Rick Dungey explains...

DUNGEY: Mulching programs are common - but there have been some creative ones out there.

COLE: He adds, some trees get a new life that isn't half bad. Down in Louisiana, where the land meets the ocean...

JASON SMITH: We place them out in the marsh to combat coastal erosion.

COLE: At the Department of Environmental Affairs, Jason Smith uses trees to make coastal repairs. The trees trap the soil, and make the waves slow...

SMITH: And aquatic vegetation can begin to grow.


COLE: At Oakland's fine zoo, the word trunk is a term, that applies to both Christmas trees and pachyderms. The beasts lumber past, pining for treats, rooting around for a new thing to eat. Gina Kinzley, their keeper, says they prefer the sweet evergreens.

GINA KINZLEY: The noble firs.

COLE: The trees are both playthings and part of their diet. And they're not alone, other animals try it.

KINZLEY: Giraffe and Zebra ...

COLE: ...also give it a try.

KINZLEY: Lions, tigers, the bears...

COLE: Oh, my.

KINZLEY: The elephants really enjoy the bark.

COLE: It looks just like Christmas aboard Noah's Ark.


COLE: The fishermen up north in Portland were stumped. The fish population has recently slumped. And part of the reason, says Mr. Mike Gentry, is that some of the streams are deplorably empty, of woody debris for the Coho and trout. There's no habitat. So, it's time to branch out.

MIKE GENTRY: They need cover from predators...

COLE: hide out below.

GENTRY: They need a calm place to rest and grow. They also need a food source.

COLE: So Gentry and his team sink dead Christmas trees in their swift local streams.


COLE: In the east, Mitchell Mann and Dominic Esposito are two Jersey boys who live by one credo:

MITCHELL MANN: To save the environment.

DOMINIC ESPOSITO: Pretty much, being green.

COLE: So, they drummed up a posse of like-minded teens. They'll grab all the trees - every one within reach, and they'll bring them all down to nearby Bradley Beach.

MANN: Once the trees are on the beach, they're laid down against a fence.

COLE: Where they form the foundation of coastal defense.

ESPOSITO: And as the wind blows, the trees capture the sand.

COLE: And soon dunes will form - at least that's the plan. And in future years...

ESPOSITO: When a storm comes through, it protects all the houses...

COLE: ...and habitat too. Though their life has been sapped and their trunks have been hewn, these trees might form forests in marshes and dunes. And dead groves will grow in the rivers and zoos. I'm Adam Cole, NPR News.

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