Today I took my Christmas decorations down, to go back into their cupboard home until next Christmas. Part of this packing up ‘ritual’ is to take our Christmas tree back outside where it will also stay until next December.
A few years ago, when my partner and I relocated interstate with very few personal possessions, we had a choice to make about what sort of Christmas tree we wanted to buy. Although they last a long time and rarely need replacing, neither of us really wanted an artificial tree due to emissions that go into the production of the plastic. In addition to this, disposal of the tree at the end of its life is likely to add to the growing problem of plastic pollution that our global community is already facing. I also wasn’t keen on purchasing a real tree chopped specifically for the occasion as I wasn't sure if the species of pines grown for Christmas occur naturally in Australia, and I was worried about their environmental footprint with regards to water consumption.
After a bit of research, we decided to purchase a living tree that we could keep and watch grow throughout its (or our) lifetime. We purchased an adorable little Daintree pine, and four Christmases later, we haven’t looked back. Our tree lives most of the year outside in a sunny position in our backyard, and in a pot for ease of moving it inside for the festive season.
Four Christmases with my Daintree Pine
Daintree pines (Gymnostoma australianum) occur naturally in a small area of the Daintree Rainforest, north of Cairns. Interestingly, the Daintree pine is not a pine at all, but belongs to the family Casuarinaceae. They thrive in sheltered, open sunny spots along the banks of creeks. They love water, so we keep our tree irrigated throughout the year (watered for a couple of minutes every two to three days). This is fine in sub-tropical and tropical climates where there is no shortfall of rainfall, but if you were to grow this in a drier climate I would recommend considering irrigating from a rainwater tank to reduce potable water consumption.
Being a tree that grows in more open rainforest locations, we also try to keep our Daintree pine close to a window whilst it is inside. We only tend to bring it inside about one and a half weeks before Christmas, and take it back outside a few days into the New Year.
If a Daintree pine isn’t for you but you would like a living Christmas tree, there are a couple of other varieties that you can often find at your local nursery. These include Norfolk Island pines (Araucaria heterophylla), an Australian conifer once endemic to Norfolk Island, and the Woolly Bush (Adenanthos sericeus) which is from south west Western Australia and suits a more dry Mediterranean climate.
Norfolk pines and Woolly Bushes at a local nursery