The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

June 12, 2013

Permanent Christmas tree planned downtown

— The County Commission has started a search for a permanent Christmas tree to place at the Limestone County Courthouse.

County workers traditionally put up a tree and then take it down each Christmas season. This year the commission is seeking to plant a permanent tree if the right variety can be found.

Last year’s tree was a donated cedar from Newton Farms. Chairman Stanley Menefee said after Wednesday’s work session that regional extension agent Doug Chapman has been asked to find a viable tree.

Chapman, who began his search Monday, said he is looking for a medium-size hardy tree that will flourish despite hot weather.

“We’re in the process of trying to look for a good one but we don’t know what it’s going to be yet,” said Chapman, who specializes in commercial horticulture. “The first thing that is guiding me is finding a tree that is heat-tolerant and disease-tolerant.”

Chapman, who is based at the Limestone County Extension Office, said some traditional Christmas tree varieties are not grown in the North Alabama climate.

“Spruces and firs don’t grow down here because they’re not adaptive to our warm, humid climate,” he said. “We have to find other species that will tolerate our local growing conditions.”

Chapman said he is trying to find a Momi fir that is native to southern and central Japan but can also grow in the Deep South.

“It’s called the abies firma, which can grow as far south as Louisiana. It’s not very common, and I’m trying to locate one,” he said.

Chapman, who is also considering a holly or Norway spruce, said an adaptive tree has a lifespan of 10 to 20 years but he is hoping to find something that will last a long time.

Chapman said once a tree is chosen, it would not be planted until fall. The location of the permanent tree has not been decided, although Menefee suggested using the southwest corner of the courthouse.

“We can’t plant a tree right now. The earliest we could get something in the ground would be October,” Chapman said. “There is plenty of time to find something to put there, and it will be up to the county to decide where to put it.”

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