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DNR Question of the week

From Steve Vongroven, DNR forest utilization and marketing program coordinator

Q: Where do the balsam fir boughs come from that are used to make holiday wreaths and garlands?

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A: The specialty forest products industry uses many of the natural resources found in Minnesota’s forests — pinecones, mosses and birch twigs — to make everything from decorative items to medicinal and herbal products. One of the most important specialty products is the balsam bough. About 1,700 tons of boughs are harvested annually from Minnesota forests, and each ton makes roughly 400 wreathes. However, the number made per ton varies depending on the size of each item. The main products, which consist of wreathes, garlands, and swags are 95 percent balsam fir based. Pine and white cedar are also used to create holiday decorations.

Most of the boughs used by Minnesota’s special forest products industry are harvested from public and private lands across the northern part of the state. Itasca, St. Louis, Aitkin and Cass counties support more than one-half of the bough harvest in Minnesota. The state’s balsam bough industry has annual retail sales topping $30 million. When the 9 million pine cones and other decorative items are added in, the economic impact is much bigger.