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Serving: MO
person recycling Christmas tree
HOLIDAY HELP: Landowners can place Christmas trees in ponds to improve habitat for fish. Near St. Louis, Mo., MDC Fisheries biologists sink used trees in the water at Lake 33 at the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in St. Charles, and St. Louis County’s Spanish Lake Park.

Your Christmas tree can help wildlife

Consider recycling real trees; place them along fencerows or in ponds.

It’s the dreaded post-Christmas party. You know the one. Where you incinerate the wrapping paper in the burn barrel out back, package dinner leftovers in containers or feed it to the dog, and dismantle all the holiday cheer.

Most of the Christmas decorations are reusable, but for a live tree, well, that just won’t keep for another year. For those of us in rural America, hauling the tree to the woods after the holidays is commonplace. Turns out that is the correct approach.

Actually, the Missouri Department of Conservation considers it “one last gift” we give to wildlife.

Recycling a live Christmas tree is to place it in a backyard to offer cover for small wildlife such as rabbits and reptiles. If you put the tree under a bird feeder it will make a convenient nesting opportunity in the branches. Christmas trees can also be shredded or chipped for mulch and added to landscaping.

However, there is another option — placing it at the bottom of a pond or lake.

Kevin Meneau, MDC Fisheries Management Biologist, says trees provide woody cover that makes excellent habitat for invertebrates. These are an ideal food source for smaller fish, which draws them in like a magnet. This in turn brings in bigger fish and creates a situation that gives a boost to the lake’s entire food chain.

“They also help young fish,” Meneau says in a news release, “because when the adults spawn their young can hide in those trees.”

The underwater brush piles concentrate fish, so the submerged trees can be a honeyhole for anglers. Make sure when you drop the tree you note its location, either by a map or using a GPS. Next year, you or your fellow fishermen can revisit these areas to improve their odds.

Meneau says it’s best to drop the entire tree into the lake or pond without cutting it up or removing any branches. And don’t worry if you see the treetops poking out of the water, they are visible for five-to-six weeks before becoming water logged and sinking completely.

So, eliminate some of the post-holiday stress, consider recycling the tree by placing it at the bottom of a pond or just along the fence row. It is just one more holiday gift that keeps on giving.

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