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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - January 04, 2011

From: Lewisburg, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: White fuzz on Christmas tree from Lewisburg PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our Canaan fir Christmas tree is now coated with white fuzz after being up for 4 weeks. The fuzz looks like spider webs, but it is also in clumps around the needles. When you rub your finger on it, it seems chalky. Any idea of what this is?

ANSWER:

Since we had not heard of a Canaan fir, we found this article from the National Christmas Tree Association on the Canaan Fir. In our Native Plant Database, we found information on our webpage on Abies balsamea (Balsam fir). On that page (which see), we found this information on pests and diseases of this plant:

"Conditions Comments: This slow-growing tree loses its lower branches as it matures, but maintains its dense, spire-like habit throughout its life. It needs to be kept cool and moist during the growing season. It is troubled by spruce budworm, woolly aphid and several canker diseases and is heavily browsed by deer. It is very resistant to attack by gypsy moth. The soft foliage makes balsam a favorite Christmas tree."

Any of these conditions might be the cause of the fuzz on the tree, but not likely. It is, first of all, a dead tree. Second, those various insects are no doubt hiding somewhere as eggs or larvae and not likely to be active. Our best guess is that it is some kind of mold, possibly because you have had the tree in a water reservoir.

Our advice? Again, it's a dead tree, and Christmas is well over. Many communities have tree-recycling programs, so that the organic matter in the tree can be put to good use. Whatever is on your tree branches, you don't want it in the house. Throw it out.

Images of Abies balsamea var. phanerolepsis from Google.

 

 

 

 

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