Sent: Friday, December 19, 2008 7:26 AM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas
Christmas tree water starting to smell foul:
I see that I am not the only person who has a problem with a foul smell from the water after a week or so. It's rather pungent, to the point where I have looked to see if someone has thrown up behind my sofa cushions.....
I have noticed that this is the same smell from pine sawdust that has gotten wet and been covered for a small amount of time. I think it's just the natural bacteria in the tree fiber that gets into the water, that is kept at room temperature and VIOLA!....you have a christmas petri dish.
I cleaned out the water with a turkey baster, put in a smaller amount of fresh water (tree doesn't seem to absorb as much now) and added a little peppermint oil. I should have gotten pine oil though....
That has worked for the last week.
You know, it's an interesting phenomenon, how I get that question each year. I'm still convinced it's not that common, but I guess when it happens, it's something that moves people to take action and they do some internet searching and once they find our site, write in a question about it. I've never personally experienced it, so I can't completely get a handle on it. I know you didn't put anything in your tree's water, but I know that's a very common culprit once people explain in an email that they put stuff in their water. One time -- I'm not making this up -- a lady told me she had taken a whole tree feeding spike, the kind you push into the ground near a tree to release nitrogen in the soil around it's roots, and crushed it up and put in the tree stand with the water. Well, needless to say, her water stink, stank, stunk.
I also had a lady write to say that her tree smelled like fish. ???? She thought at first it was because she was pregnant, but then her husband said he smelled it too and since he's not pregnant, that couldn't be the cause.
You may have a point about naturally occurring bacteria, but I would think if that was the case it would be more common. If it was more common, I wouldn't think 32 million families would enjoy a farm-grown tree each year.
I dunno ...like I said, I've never experienced a foul smell coming from any Christmas tree I've ever had, so I can't quite put my finger on it. Interesting idea on the peppermint oil. I think you can also put a little baking soda in the water if it really does smell bad. It will neutralize odor (just like the box in the fridge does) and as a base, it won't harm the plant tissue of the tree. One thing I always do -- and I should add this to our tips section -- is I take my stand outside and hose it out good both before putting my tree up and after I take it down before storing it with the other decorations. I think this helps get rid of dust, dirt, needles and maybe any bacteria like you mentioned.
Sent: Saturday, December 13, 2008 7:46 PM
Subject: FAQ Addition
We have noticed a sudden odor that seems to be coming from the tree. It is not coming from the water base as we were suspecting. What could it be?
What species of tree is it Maria? Crush/split open a few needles between your fingers and see if that releases an "evergreen" scent...unless it is a White Spruce, which has a distinctive odor most people would describe as unpleasant.
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 1:50 PM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: Re: RE: FAQ Addition
The only information I could get on the tree was it is a balsam tree from New Brunswick. Same place, same supplier I always get my tree from. One site online mentioned some trees are sprayed with fox urine, ? to deter deer or other tree eating animals? It actually does smell like the dogs went on the carpet, but there is no carpet in the room.
Crushed the needles. Definately evergreen smell but not the typical fragrance of a xmas tree. If you can shed any light on the mystery, thanks. If not, thanks for your efforts and email reply. I think the tree is going on the porch either way.
Deer deterrent such as animal urine, when used, are typically applied to the ground around a field, not directly on a Christmas tree right before harvest. I wouldn't consider that a culprit. Now, that doesn't mean that some actual animal didn't soil that tree while it was growing in the field, but it would have had to be right before it was harvested I would think and among all the thousands of trees in a field ...I'd call that a very remote possibility.
It's more likely dirt, moisture and such. And I know you said it wasn't coming from the water in the stand but that is most often the culprit of a foul odor I've found over the years of answering questions about trees. Did you add anything to the water?
Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 6:53 AM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: Re:FAQ Addition
Thanks so much for the information. No, I did not add anything to the water. I feel much better knowing that some foul animal chemical was not sprayed on the tree. Should I try baking soda in the water as another blogger suggested? So far I have not done anything except spray Lysol, open the windows & bother you. I am very close to putting the tree on the porch outside against the kids wishes.
first of all, you're not bothering me ...this is what I do
I recommend baking soda in the water to people who have put something in the water that is making it stinky. I'm not making this up....one time a lady wrote to me and said she had taken a whole evergreen feeding spike, the kind you push into the ground near a tree's roots so it gets nitrogen all year, and crushed it and put it in the tree's water stand. Ugghhhhh. But, since you didn't put anything in the water, I don't think it's the culprit and baking soda wouldn't help.
When you say it is not a "typical fragrance of a Christmas tree" when you crushed the needles, that actually makes me think it is not a Balsam fir. Because...well, to probably 96.3% of the population, you couldn't get a MORE christmas tree type smell than crushed Balsam needles. I suspect it might actually be a White Spruce, which many people say has a disagreeable odor when the needles are crushed. It's very similar in appearance to a Balsam, so many people coudn't tell the difference. http://www.christmastree.org/trees/wht_spr.cfm
If that is not the case, then my money is on something inside the foliage of the tree which is wet and decomposing...like maybe a bird's nest or a bunch of leaves or some other kind of organic matter.
Hello again Rick,
I think you hit the nail on the head. It must be a white spruce. The tree does not look any different than the ones we have had in the past but I am not the most observant. Will have my husband look at the link you sent and see what he thinks later.
The odor is not as bad as last week. I think I looked the tree over pretty well and I don't think anything is decomposing in it. That is unless a little mouse has drowned in the base and I can't see it. That might explain the strong odor that started abruptly and is slowly dissipating. All that being said, we don't usually have mice.
Now that the smell had eased up, I am not tossing the tree. Besides, the kids get bummed out when I mention it.
Thanks for the tips. I won't put anything in the water. If we don't put the lights on for too long the scent is less noticeable.
I will definately email you the day after xmas when we dismantle the tree if we find any evidence of decomp or anything else unusual.
and a watering question
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 6:15 PM
Subject: Tree wilted overnight
We live in Northern California.
We picked up a 7-foot Noble Fir at our local Home Depot. It smelled good, was very green and still wet inside, most likely from being on the truck. We tested the branches. Bent kneedles. All good. No loss or breakage.
When we got home we made a fresh straight cut and immediately put the tree in the stand in the water. 36 hours later the branches are all wilted and facing down. Is there anything we can do to perk it back up?
I’m very worried it died. Which would suck because it is fully decorated already.
Is the tree absorbing water from the stand Victoria? What is the outside temperature lately where you live?
From: Victoria Holl [mailto:VHoll@vocera.com]
Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 12:12 PM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: RE: Tree wilted overnight
The tree does seem to be absorbing water. An inch or so a day is gone from the stand.
Our days have been in the low 60s and our nights in the 40s. My husband is the total heat miser so our heater is almost never on.
Hmm...well, that's unusual to say the least. I'm encouraged that it does seem to be absorbing water, albeit slowly. But variations in the rate of water absorption is normal, and with you keeping your home cooler than typical that will slow down the rate at which the tree loses moisture.
Was there anything applied to the tree?
If a tree was overly-dry to begin with, you would be able to tell that at the lot, and from what you describe it doesn't seem that way. Also, a tree past what we call the "point of no return" wouldn't be absorbing any water at all.
Exposure to short extremes of heat or cold can cause the foliage to "burn" changing it's appearance. One of the most common examples of this is people who haul their tree home in the bed of a pick up truck. The truck's exhaust heats that surface area and when people get their tree home later they notice that one side of it looks like it was burned. The other common example in colder areas, is someone laying their tree on frozen concrete for a while...that can cause "burning" of the foliage as well.
If you don't think the tree was exposed to any short temperature extremes or or any other external material (hopefully you did apply any fire retardant to it), then I would say just keep tabs on whether it is still absorbing water. Trees are in a state of dormancy when they are harvested, and sometimes it can take a while for that condition to reverse as the tree warms and absorbs water.