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Reaching more than 50 feet skyward, a tall Norway spruce is making the trip from its Morgan County mountaintop near Oliver Springs to the big city.
The spruce has been selected as the Tennessee State Christmas tree and will soon be decorated and on display at the State Capitol in Nashville.
“The UT Institute of Agriculture is honored to provide the tree for the enjoyment of the state’s citizens during the 2013 holiday season,” said Martin Schubert, manager of UT’s Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center.
“It speaks to the nature of the research that’s been going on here at the Cumberland Forest since the 1950s.”
Schubert said the spruce has been growing some three decades at the UT Institute of Agriculture’s Cumberland Forest near Oliver Springs and was originally planted at another location as part of a UT AgResearch project.
“It was part of a research project growing Christmas tree crops on strip mines,” said Shubert.
“In 1985, when that study concluded, that tree was dug up along with a few others and brought down here and planted next to the headquarters.”
It was located near a Norway spruce breeding orchard that participated in a testing and genetic selection program to improve the breed’s needle retention.
UT AgResearch participates in many such programs to enhance the state’s nursery industry.
The large tree stood right outside Schubert’s office and needed to come down because it blocked sunlight to a hardwood species research project nearby.
The state will only be able to use the top 30 or so feet of the spruce, but its perfect shape and beauty make it a good fit for a public tree.
“One of the problems that Norway spruce had traditionally as a Christmas tree was the retention of needles over time,” Schubert said.
“Younger trees will have improved needle-holding capacity, but after this older tree was harvested, it was treated with a spray to keep the needles fresh.”
A large crane lowered the tree’s top onto the bed of a lowboy truck, and it was strapped in for the approximately 120-mile ride to Nashville.
Much like the Griswolds in the movie “Christmas Vacation” who strapped a large tree to the roof of their station wagon, transporting this tree was expected to pose its challenges.
UTIA worked with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to make sure the truck and tree will clear both height and width restrictions along country roads and in more congested areas.
Although the Christmas tree research has concluded, the Cumberland Forest facilitates several large- and small-scale forest and wildlife management research projects, as well as ecological demonstrations managed by the UT AgResearch program.
The site is also home to some of the earliest strip mine reclamation research in Tennessee.
The Cumberland Forest is a unit of the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center, which is an 11,500-acre field research laboratory.
The center is a regionally recognized leader in developing new technologies applicable to modern forestry and wildlife resources management and environmental stewardship and is one of 10 AgResearch and Education Centers in the UT AgResearch system.
In addition to its agricultural research programs, the UT Institute of Agriculture also provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.