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Scientists Prepare for Exploding Christmas Tree Seeds

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More than 1,000 Christmas trees growing at a western North Carolina research facility have not matured yet, but already, North Carolina State University researchers are making plans to capture and care for their seeds. That’s because the trees’ cones are known to crumble and shoot out their seeds into the breeze.

“The Fraser fir is different than other conifers, like loblolly pines, in that when their cones are ripe, they explode,” said Justin Whitehill, assistant professor of forestry and environment resources at NC State, and the lead researcher for NC State’s Christmas Tree Genetics Program. “You have to be pretty organized and on top of it, and pick them before that happens.”

Whitehill is part of a team caring for the orchard of Fraser fir trees that researchers have selected for their superior appearance, how fast they grow and their ability to retain their needles. The trees are located at the Upper Mountain Research Station in Ashe County, North Carolina – one of the nation’s top Christmas tree producing counties and dubbed by some as “America’s Christmas tree capital.”

Recently, Whitehill joined other scientists and state and university leaders to mark the launch of construction on a new facility that will be dedicated to the care of the trees’ seeds, funded by a grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund.

Read this full article and the interview with Dr. Whitehill at


Information for this article courtesy of NC State University

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