When dad used to recollect his boyhood days spent on his grandfather’s estate called “Sane hidlu/incessant rain” in Chikkamagalur, he always referred to the huge Christmas tree present in the front yard of the house. The tree was referred to as “Pandava Mara” because the tree has five branches on each layer and the Pandavas were the 5 brothers in the Indian epic Mahabharatha. After 6 decades we visited the estate and to ours and dad’s delight the Christmas tree was intact and thriving. Some of the oldest surviving trees in the world are the coniferous trees.
Picture1 – The Xmas Tree
The decades old Christmas tree bent to perfection in front of Crawford hall, which is a heritage building in Mysore adds beauty and class to the structure. The same tree standing upright in front of Town Hall in Mysore has also witnessed hundreds of Dasara processions.
Picture2 – Christmas tree in front of Town hall (up) and in front of Crawford hall (down)
The botanical name of the popular Christmas tree is Araucaria heterophylla and the other common name is Norfolk Island pine. It is a conifer and as its name implies it is endemic to Norfolk Island, which is situated in the Pacific Ocean between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. Though this tree is not a true pine, it is also referred to as ‘Star Pine’, due to its symmetrical shape.
The trees grow to a height of 80 feet, with straight vertical trunks and symmetrical branches. The leaves are thick and glossy and are closely arranged to form a tube like appearance, the cones are 10 – 12 cms long and 12 – 14 cm in diameter. These cones have nuts called as pine nuts, which are edible. It takes 18 months for the cone to mature.
Picture3 – Cones
Because of its beautiful, symmetrical and triangular shape, this tree is popular as an ornamental plant in public and private gardens and also for decorating as a Christmas tree.
Plant Cultivation in pots
It grows in almost all types of weather. But it cannot sustain direct harsh sunlight for long. Norfolk Island pine is the preferred choice to decorate as a Christmas tree. Hence this tree can be grown in pots as an indoor or an outdoor plant. Extreme temperature should be avoided. Water the plants thoroughly and in winter; water only when the soil is completely dry. Monthly a plant feed can be added.
If the leaves turn brown, then it is a sign that the growth has stopped from that point onwards. Snip off the brown tips. Misting the tree also helps the tree to grow well as it needs a lot of humidity. Repot the plant once in three years during spring season. Fast-draining potting medium can be used like cocoa peat.
Tips for maintaining the tree during Christmas decoration
- If it is an outdoor potted plant, then few days before Christmas bring the pot indoors for few hours everyday to acclimatize it to the indoor environment.
- Do not switch on the lights continuously; the heat generated might damage the tree.
- Do not decorate with heavy objects.
- Mist the tree once in two days.
- Remove the decorations as soon as the celebrations are over.
- If it was an outdoor plant, then move the plant to a shaded area after the celebrations before moving it to its original place.