Arborists disagree over effect climate change will have on Christmas tree sales

Some arborists have played down fears that climate change might bring an end to the UK Christmas tree industry.

However, experts are predicting a move from the most popular Nordmann tree to the US favourite - and more needle-fast - Pinus contorta (lodgepole pine) in coming years.

Managing director Sadie Lynes of Berkshire-based Christmas tree wholesaler Jadecliff, which sells 120,000 trees a year, said: "Christmas trees will become a thing of the past if we always have a warm autumn. You can't sell trees that can't hold their needles."

Myerscough College arboriculture lecturer Duncan Slater said the weather would remain cold enough for Christmas trees to be felled, when they have stopped growing in most of the country. "This is a problem for people growing trees in the South, if the climate gets three or four degrees warmer. The end growth could be soft (if autumn is warm). But the American lodgepole pine could be the answer."

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew arboretum head Tony Kirkham said day-length, rather than warmth, was the most important factor that determines when Christmas trees stop growing.

"There has been a problem this year with needle drop from Nordmann trees sold as needle-fast and, I assume, that is because they are being cut earlier. Even needle-fast trees drop their needles eventually. Ten years ago everyone bought a Picea abies, which became a skeleton before New Year and now most growers are growing Nordmanns. Demand has grown and they are having to cut earlier to keep up. But most trees become dormant on day-length, rather than temperature.

"Quality has improved dramatically in the past 10 years, with more effort going into growing Christmas trees as a crop, rather than the sparse things we used to get.

"Years ago, if you had a Nordmann you were considered well-off - now most people say it's the only Christmas tree available. It's a fantastic tree for £25. But there could be a trend to change again. It could be the Wollemi pine in 25 years' time. Pines are more needle-fast."

Meanwhile, UK-grown tree sales may have reached record levels, according to early indications, and realised higher prices after imports fell. Despite this, DIY chain B&Q started a price war, cutting 180-210cm trees to £24.98, with Wyevale selling them at £34.99 and Homebase at £39.99.

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