"Christmas Tree - Tree for Life" project brings silver fir back to Czech Republic's forests

Every year, almost a million Christmas trees are sold in the Czech Republic. Soon after the holidays people throw them away and the trees have to be disposed of as waste. For the sixth year running, environmentalists in Brno are offering people the chance to buy live Christmas trees which can be replanted outdoors after Christmas. Also, they've chosen one particular type of conifer, once plentiful in the Czech lands but now on the verge of extinction.

The European silver fir used to be the most widespread conifer in Czech and Moravian forests before human activity made it almost extinct.

Nature conservationists in the city of Brno came up with an idea how to bring the silver fir back into the Czech countryside. This year alone some nine hundred saplings have been sold in pots as live Christmas trees.

Mirka Drobilkova of the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation, one of the organisers of the project.

"One month before Christmas we buy young trees in plant pots. The trees are about 40 centimetres tall, that's about 5 years old. We sell them, this year it is for 80 Czech crowns or 2.5 euros. People who buy this tree, keep it in the cold, for example, in the garden or on the balcony. For Christmas Day they take it inside. They spend Christmas together and then again keep the tree in the cold."

Along with the tree, people are given a leaflet telling them how to take care of it and also inviting them to come and plant their fir together with others in a forest outside the city.

"In the spring we organise a small celebration where we invite all the people with the trees - usually they are people with small children - and we plant the trees out in the forest. Of course, we like when people watch their tree, how it's growing, and every year we show them the place where they planted their last tree."

The project started six years ago on a small scale - with only a hundred trees. Mirka Drobilkova says that each following year, it is more and more successful. Although some people prefer to replant the sapling in their own garden, still a few hundred enthusiasts meet every year at the spring planting ceremony.