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Deck the Halls with Holiday Data

From the smell of fresh pine, to the vibrant colors of poinsettias, the holiday season is the perfect time of year to spotlight America’s horticulture growers through the just released 2014 Census of Horticultural Specialties report. I’ve experienced firsthand how unique and amazing this industry is by working nationwide with producers and stakeholders as USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics (NASS) nursery and floriculture commodity specialist.

For example, did you know farmers can invest more than 8 years growing a Christmas tree for harvest? While there are not many producers dedicated to this work, according to our latest report industry sales grew. In 2014, there were 3,386 Christmas tree producers in the United States. That year there were a total of 20 million cut Christmas trees sold, valued at $367 million in sales. This was a significant increase from the last report in 2009, when only 13 million trees were cut and sold for a total of $250 million.

Poinsettias: Helping an Icon to Bloom at the Right Time

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Poinsettias are more than just an icon of the Christmas season. They’ve become the go-to plant for decorating homes, hotels, offices and just about everywhere from the Friday after Thanksgiving to well past New Year’s Day.

This wasn’t always the poinsettia’s story. In the 1950s, poinsettias were flashy plants that made a brief appearance in public places shortly before Christmas, only to drop their leaves and colorful flower-like bracts a few days later. They were expensive to grow because their blooming time was difficult to synchronize with the holidays, and the plants easily grew tall and leggy.

The Poinsettia, in the Shadow of the Christmas Tree

The poinsettia – academic types may call it by its binomial name, and biologists might refer to its species. But how many of us are guilty of calling it that red flower with the pointy leaves used to decorate during the holidays?

In the world of holiday shrubbery, the poinsettia has always taken a backseat to the Christmas tree. With its lights and ornaments, the tree has become the icon of the holiday in contrast to the poinsettia, which is usually placed in a nearby corner.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Do We Count Thee?

Just as millions of Americans venture out this time of year to purchase a fresh cut Christmas tree, I too am busy visiting and talking with Christmas tree growers. However for me, the visits are important outreach opportunities with producers to prepare for the 2014 Census of Horticulture, which we at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) just mailed this week.

This special study will help us do more than just count Christmas trees. It will look at the entire horticulture sector in the United States and gather a full count of this $14.5 billion industry. The Census of Horticulture will paint a detailed picture of U.S. producers nationwide – those who grow all those cherished holiday trimmings, from fresh cut Christmas trees, to poinsettias, holly and more.

Providing the Gift of Water for Poinsettias and Other Ornamental Crops

Happy Poinsettia Day!

Of the countless iconic holiday season images in American homes, perhaps the most popular and colorful of them started off as a humble bush from our neighbors to the south.

The poinsettia was introduced to this country in the late 1820s by Joel Poinsett, the first American ambassador to Mexico, but only started on the path to holiday season superstardom in the early 1900s.  By 2013, poinsettias accounted for 23 percent of sales for flowering potted plants – to the tune of $146 million.