What’s this? Could it really be a polar bear getting ready to eat a discarded Christmas tree? Indeed, our friend and faithful Urban Plants reader Phyllis alerted us to a strange and amazing January urban plant tradition that takes place each year in zoos all around Germany.
If you’ve ever wondered what happens to all the Christmas trees after the new year, you will find out a few of the possible answers today. As you can read in the article pictured above (in the English-language section of German news site Spiegel.de), in Germany, the new year finds zoo animals enjoying a seasonal treat – and leftover Christmas trees meeting a fascinating fate. The trees, which are rich in vitamin C, are enjoyed by many different animals as a delicious change of pace – due to the aromatic pitch, the trees are sweet and fragrant, say zookeepers.
As you can see in the article, not only bears, but also antelopes, wild boars, elephants and other animals receive Christmas trees to play with and to eat. These trees are unsold, unused specimens, collected from Christmas tree lots after the season. Zookeepers require that they be free of the chemicals, such as flame retardants, which are often used on holiday trees.
In some ways, it seems like a brutal end for a Christmas tree that was already rejected by tree shoppers – to be done away by the gnashing teeth of a large animal! On the other hand, it’s nice that these trees don’t go to waste.
Much sadder are the many used trees dumped by city dwellers on sidewalks all month long. These can’t be fed to zoo animals because they may contain inedible remnants of tinsel and other decorations. In Berlin, the city collects what trees it can and to make wooden pellets for a local power plant, as do many other German cities. But since there is no rhyme or reason to when or where the trees are dumped on the streets, many lie around forlornly for weeks, making January sidewalks a sorry sight.
And of course, Germany is not the only country with a leftover Tannenbaum problem. The Beton + Garten blog also alerted us to an installation in Brooklyn under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway by Michael Neff:
Well, January is almost over, so the last of the Christmas trees will probably disappear mysteriously in the next days. Let’s see what urban plants we shall notice in the remaining winter months before spring springs again.
Updated on February 1: images from Spiegel.de are shown in context of a screenshot.