Balsam Bough Harvesting: Make Your Own Wreath!

Active Adventures: Harvesting Boughs And Assembling A Holiday Wreath

SUPERIOR NATIONAL FOREST, Minn. — In this week’s Active Adventures, Fox 21’s Brittney Merlot takes us deep into the woods to collect balsam boughs! Then we head inside to learn how to assemble your own wreath!

A permit is required for collecting balsam boughs and can picked up at the district DNR offices for $25.

Minnesota is a leader in the holiday wreath and greens industry. This is a credit not only to the balsam fir resource, but more importantly, to those who are supplying the boughs and products through hard work and commitment to quality. It has taken generations of effort to build this industry that employs thousands of people in Minnesota. For Minnesota to continue to be a leader, however, the balsam fir resource and how it is managed must be looked at carefully. Proper management of the balsam resource will enable the industry to continue to grow and be a source of income this year, next year, and in future years.

  • Each year about 750,000 pounds of balsam boughs are harvested from state forests between late September and early December.
  • A good day’s picking can yield up to 1,000 pounds of boughs-enough to make 200 wreaths, each 25 inches in diameter.
  • As a home business, families can earn up to $20,000 a year harvesting and assembling basic wreaths.
  • It is estimated that companies producing wreaths in Minnesota have total sales exceeding $23 million and growing.

Most balsam boughs are harvested from early October to early December. Boughs retain their needles the best if harvested after the second hard frost. Balsam fir is a short-lived, cold-climate tree of the northern Lake States. It requires abundant soil moisture and a humid atmosphere. In wetlands it grows in pure stands or in association with black spruce, cedar, and tamarack. On higher ground it is typically found in the under story of pine, aspen, and birch stands. While mature balsam fir is used primarily for pulp and saw timber, the young trees are used for Christmas trees. The flat, dense, dark green needles are well suited for wreaths and holiday decorations.

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