The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, a red spruce nicknamed Ruby, made stops earlier this month on the Outer Banks on its way to Washington for the holiday season.
Each year since 1970, a national forest provides the holiday tree to light up the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This year’s tree comes from the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. The 78-foot red spruce was harvested Nov. 2 by Rodney Smith, a 30-year national forest employee.
Known as “The People’s Tree,” the tradition is a gift from public lands to the U.S. Capitol Building – the people’s house – where it stands for all to see.
“The Christmas tree serves as a reminder of the majestic forests, grassy meadows, awesome expanses of grasslands, ancient wind-swept deserts, and the diverse landscapes in between that are for all Americans to use and enjoy,” the U.S. Forest Service said in a news release.
After harvest, Ruby was loaded on a flatbed trailer and hit the road for a 14-day tour from North Carolina to Washington. Ruby was scheduled to arrive in D.C. on Nov. 18, where the tree will be decorated with handmade ornaments and tree skirts created by North Carolinians.
Ruby’s first stop on the Outer Banks took place Nov. 13 at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site in Manteo, where she was greeted by the Manteo Elementary School Choir and a guest appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus.
As Ruby headed out of town the next morning, the tree and team made an impromptu stop at the nearby Bodie Island lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore for some photo ops.
During her time in Washington, Ruby will be adorned with thousands of ornaments decorated and donated by North Carolina schools, communities, and civic organizations.
The red spruce is an iconic tree species for southern Appalachia, and one that is endangered, the National Park Service said in a news release. Partnering with the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program, the U.S. Forest Service is raising funds for a state-of-the-art nursery that will grow red spruce seedlings for reforestation efforts.
One day, Ruby’s seedlings will grow in the nursery. A team of foresters collected cones from the tree, which will contribute to the next generation of red spruce trees growing in southern Appalachia.
The nursery will be managed by the Southern Highlands Reserve, a arboretum and research center with a mission to raise 50,000 new red spruce trees from seed to be planted on public lands in North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee and Virginia.
“We are very excited to partner with the U.S. Forest Service and Southern Highlands Reserve on efforts to restore these unique, high-elevation, spruce-fir forests of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia,” Mark Shelley, director of eastern programs for the National Forest Foundation, said in a statement. “We are actively working to create a supply of trees to meet these restoration goals.”
Kari Pugh, firstname.lastname@example.org