The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
Have you ever heard of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree? I had never heard of it until someone I knew was helping with its campaign across the state of North Carolina! Since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has provided the Christmas tree for display on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for the holiday season. Each year this tree is chosen from one of the country’s 154 National Forests and is commonly known as “The People’s Tree” because it comes from the people’s public land. This partnership between the Capitol and the U.S. Forest Service also includes a public engagement campaign with the tree to create connections and celebrate our national forests.
This year, 2022, the People’s Tree came from the Pisgah National Forest in the mountains of western North Carolina. The tree has come from N.C. twice before, in 1974 and 1998, both times a Fraser fir from the same National Forest. The tree that was selected is a 78-foot-tall red spruce named “Ruby,” which comes from a shortening of its scientific name, Picea rubens. Before Ruby was harvested, a team of folks inspected the tree to make sure it wasn’t home to any critters, like the Carolina northern flying squirrel (endangered), that would be displaced after the tree was felled. Red Spruce is known for its light weight, stiffness, and excellent tonal quality, perfect for stringed instruments. Once Ruby is finished on the West Lawn, the tree will be made into guitars and banjos. These instruments will be donated to nonprofits in North Carolina. Some of Ruby’s cones were collected for seeds that will be transported to a tree nursery to be stored and eventually grown into seedlings.
The Society of American Foresters (SAF) has been involved as a silver sponsor in 2021 and 2022. In this capacity, they have helped develop key messages and educational pieces to share with the public. Specifically, the state division Chair assists in organizing a team to gather local information and resources. Team members included Jake Comer, Aimee Tomcho, Kevin O’Kane, and Dakota Wagner. For six months, this team met regularly to develop a brochure to hand out at all U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree tour stops. Together, they developed a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) section and a Humans in Forestry Series for the website as well.
Thanks to efforts from the U.S. Forest Service, SAF, and other partner agencies and organizations, over 12,000 ornaments were decorated and donated to adorn Ruby and other companion trees in Washington, D.C.
I personally learned about the tree at the NC SAF Summer Meeting in Winston-Salem, where Mandy Harmon, with the U.S. Forest Service, set up an exhibitor table for ornament making. It was a fun activity, and neat to be a small part of such a big event! Also, the N.C. Division Chair, Tara Dickson, played a huge role in helping gather information and organizing folks for the brochure and website. Tara is in my local SAF Chapter, Croatan, and encouraged members to attend local tour stop events in Kinston and New Bern, NC. It was awesome seeing a 78-foot tree being hauled around across the state.
For more information on the Capitol Christmas Tree event, please visit their website as well as the U.S. Forest Service’s website. Also, check out this brochure: Christmas Tree Brochure
Pictured Above: SAF members Dakota Wagner (L), Greg Cooper (M), Tara Dickson (R) at the SAF information booth/ornament making station at the Harvest Celebration kick-off stop in Fletcher, NC (picture taken by unknown).
Pictured Above: U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree at Union Point Park in New Bern, NC (taken by Blair Allman).
Pictured Above: SAF Members Tara Dickson (L) and Blair Allman (R) posing in front of “Ruby” at the stop in Kinston, NC (taken by U.S. Forest Service).
Pictured Above: Capitol Christmas tree at the NC Veterans Home in Kinston, NC (taken by Blair Allman).
US Capitol Christmas Tree Website:
US Forest Service Article About Ruby the Red Spruce: