Sustainability | Ecotrope

A Christmas tree made of invasive species

Ecotrope | Dec. 11, 2011 4:04 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:33 p.m.

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For years, Portland resident Charles Maclean has decorated an invasive holly bush for Christmas.

For years, Portland resident Charles Maclean has decorated an invasive holly bush for Christmas.

Portland resident Charles Maclean has an unusual Christmas tradition. Instead of buying one of many different kinds of Christmas trees (which one is greenest?), he makes invasive plants the centerpiece of his holiday.

“In the spirit of a non-commercial holiday and responsible land stewardship,” he says, he has decorated an invasive English holly bush instead of a traditional tree for many years.

He cuts the holly from the Trillium Hollow Cohousing property he shares with 55 other people.

But after 12 years of culling the bushes, the remaining holly bushes are so misshapen that they don’t make good stand-alone trees.

So, last year he decided to supplement them with other invasive plant branches.

He hung the holly bush upside down from the ceiling and draped both invasive and native plants over a metal frame to create a tree-shaped mix of greenery.**

This year he’s adding species ID tags to the “upside-down” invasive tree to make it educational.

For the past two years, Maclean has added other invasive plants to an upside-down holly bush to create an eco-friendly Christmas tree.

For the past two years, Maclean has added other invasive plants to an upside-down holly bush to create an eco-friendly Christmas tree.

The tree now includes invasive English ivy, vibrant redbud branches, teasels and snowberry.

The benefits of an invasive tree? Maclean says there are fewer needles, it stays green longer, it takes invasive plants off the land, raises awareness of what they look like, and gives people a new way of thinking about Christmas trees.

“And after the holidays, the assemblage will be carefully dismantled and disposed of in a way that won’t allow the invasives to run amuck,” he wrote in his own article about the project.

“Try it.  You may like it. When possible cut the roots of the holly tree so it won’t regrow. And the ‘natives’ will thank you.”

Do you have eco-friendly holiday traditions? Send them my way!

A guy I used to work with was infamous for wrapping Christmas presents in his own clothing so he wouldn’t have to use any wrapping paper. I’ve never gone to that extreme, but I have been known to reuse gift boxes, bags and bows…

** I updated the copy here to reflect the fact that Maclean used a mixture of native and invasive species in his tree.

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