hawaii christmas tree alternatives

Ryan Chang
December 09, 2021

Decorating a Christmas tree has always been one of my favorite holiday traditions. It brings the family closer together and creates a cozy pine scent throughout the home for the rest of the year.

Aside from the joy they bring, did you know pine trees also can bring unwanted pests, such as snakes, wasps, slugs, and other nonnative species? There are, however, a few alternatives to imported trees so families can carry on their festive traditions.  

Go native
Plants that are native to Hawaii are good for the environment because they’re not invasive like some imported ones. Perhaps the best native plant that can be used for the holidays is the alahee because it grows symmetrical like a Christmas tree. Contact nurseries or garden stores to see if they have them. I purchased one in a 20-gallon pot for Christmas. 

The native Hawaiian alahee is shaped like a Christmas tree and has small white flowers.

Go local
If you aren’t feeling the native plant vibe and want a traditional pine as a Christmas tree, you can get a pine tree that’s locally grown. Check local farms to see if they sell cut trees during the holidays.

Harvest your own
Channel your inner Paul Bunyan and cut your own tree. You’ll need a permit from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. There are numerous locations in the forest reserve system that have pine trees. The permit may seem like a hassle, but it helps the state keep track of our natural resources. Pick a tree that’s a manageable size for you to transport and fit in your home. Harvesting your own tree can also be a fun family activity. 

Grow your own
You could also buy a live, potted pine tree. With some care and adequate sunshine and water, the tree will grow every year. You'll be able to use it for several Christmases. 

Think local when choosing your Christmas tree this holiday season. It could save you time and money and it’ll be good for the environment, too.

 Ryan Chang is a field technician for the Oahu Invasive Species Commission and volunteers for Protect and Preserve Hawaii in Pia Valley.

Alahee photos: Ryan Chang

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