Dec 8, 2022 - News

Miami environmentalists use invasive pines for Christmas trees

Two women and a child hold up Australian pine trees.

These Australian pine trees rare eady to be used as Christmas trees. Photo courtesy of Urban Paradise Guild.

A Miami nonprofit has a a win-win idea this holiday season: get a free Christmas tree and help the environment by cutting down invasive species.

What's happening: Urban Paradise Guild (UPG), which works to restore natural habitat around Miami, is inviting families this Sunday to saw down invasive Australian pines at Arch Creek East Environmental Preserve in North Miami and use them as Christmas trees.

Why it matters: Australian pines spread aggressively and drop needle-like leaves that smother native plants.

  • The invasive trees also release "sap that can kill native plants or prevent seeds from germinating," UPG founder Sam Van Leer told Axios.
  • Without native plants to feed on, much of our wildlife cannot survive.

Context: The Australian pine was introduced to Florida in the late 1800s because of its salt tolerance and ability to block winds, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

  • They've invaded thousands of acres of southeastern and southwestern coastal areas in the state, per FWC.
  • It's particularly a problem for crocodiles and sea turtles, because the trees can grow close to water and have shallow root systems, which can interferes with the animals' ability to build coastal nests, the agency says.

Of note: It's illegal to possess an Australian pine in Florida with the intent to sell or plant it, without a special permit.

What they're saying: Van Leer told Axios a volunteer gave the nonprofit the idea to use the invasive pines as Christmas trees.

  • After the holiday, Van Leer said harvesters can return their trees to UPG, which will compost them.

Details: The tree harvest happens this Sunday, from 8-11am. Reservations are required. UPG can accommodate about 25 families.

  • Bring a handsaw if you have one! (No chainsaws, please.)

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