Earth Almanac

Earth Almanac

Beyond Donner and Blitzen; decking the woods; a partridge in tree?

By Ted Williams
Published: November-December 2012

Evergreen decorations far outdate Christmas. To celebrate the solstice and renewal, the Romans, Druids, and Vikings decked their abodes with evergreen boughs. Germans started using whole trees in the 16th century, but the custom was late to arrive in the New World. Pilgrim governor William Bradford called it a "pagan mockery." And as recently as 1851, Pastor Henry Schwan of Cleveland was excoriated and even threatened by his parishioners for decorating what is believed to be the first Christmas tree seen inside an American church. It is a sad irony that the Fraser fir, grown commercially across much of the eastern part of North America as one of our most popular Christmas trees, has a tiny native range. Not only is its natural habitat restricted to the cold, moist highlands of Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia, it is being devastated by an alien pest--the balsam woolly adelgid.

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Ted Williams

Ted Williams is freelance writer.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


Ted Williams' opinions

Since I read a post on Facebook, asking users to reach out to Audubon and ask that Mr. Williams be removed from their list of writers, for his advocacy of poisoning feral cat populations with Tylenol, I have tried to find some of his work. I can find no supporting evidence, in anything he writes to substantiate his claims of "damage to the eco-systems/environment" from half of the species he seems set to eliminate. Wild horse and burro populations are NOT the cause of habitat and environmental damage. Neither are the herds of buffalo. It is the desire of the cattle owners to have ever increasing areas to "own", that has caused this sudden outcry over "damages". As for the assertion that feral cat populations have been "solely responsible for 33 species of birds being driven to extinction", I would have to say, "Rubbish!". He makes this claim without ever giving thought to man's penchant for "sprawl", ecological factors, such as availability of food, and environmental factors, such as chemicals in water sources and/or pollution of air quality. In the future, please require that biased statements be supported, in writing, within the piece, before letting someone just spew their hatred of things of which they do not know.

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