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As much as lifelike Christmas trees have evolved during the past five decades, for many, nothing beats the wonderful holiday aroma and feel of a real Christmas tree.

And Michigan is a major producer of Christmas trees. According to the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, which represents approximately 175 wholesale farms, choose and cut farms and retail lots throughout the state, between 1.7-2 million Christmas trees will be sold in Michigan this year.

Michigan is actually the No. 3 producer of Christmas trees in the nation, said executive director Amy Start. One of the biggest producers, Dutchman Tree Farms, on the west side of the state, sells 900,000 trees alone. “Our trees go everywhere,” said Start.

The most popular tree among consumers is the Fraser fir, said Start.

It has “good needle retention, good color and a great shape,” said Start. “It’s that classic Christmas tree shape.”

But with a national Christmas tree shortage this year after tree prices plummeted during the great recession of 2008, farms closed and fewer trees were planted, Start says it may be a good time to try another type of tree, such as the Concolor fir. It has needles that smell like citrus when you break them open.

Still, if you want a Fraser fir, there will be enough to go around in Michigan, says Start. She suggests visiting the association’s website, mcta.org, to get a list of tree lots near you.

And if you’re buying a real tree this year, keep these tips in mind:

The cut is key: Most lots will give your tree a fresh cut at the bottom before you take it home but if they don’t, ask for one. “The key to needle retention is making sure you get a fresh cut,” said Start. To see if your tree is dry, Start suggests running your hand over a branch. “If you get a bunch of needles off, you don’t want that one,” she said.

Get your tree in water within one to two hours of buying it. It’ll suck up a ton of water initially before it levels off some. If you don’t water it for some reason and it dries up, it could affect its ability to retain water later.

Keep it away from a heart source. Positioning your tree near a fireplace or other heat source could make it dry out even faster, says Start.

Maintain your tree and it could last a really long time. Starts says she knows one grower whose daughter wanted to hang Easter eggs on their tree. He watered it regularly and it worked. “They kept it until Easter,” she said.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4686

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