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CINCINNATI - When you're looking for that perfect pine or fabulous fir to decorate for Christmas, there are certain questions you should ask to make sure you end up with the perfect tree.
Are the needles flexible, or do they break off in your hand? Is there fresh cut on the bottom of tree so it's easy to place it in a stand?
These are some of the standard questions tree shoppers will be asking themselves this holiday season.
There's one other question that people should be asking the Christmas tree vendors that they might not be aware of: Has this tree been colored green?
It's come to light recently that many picturesque Christmas trees look that way in part due to the fact they've been dyed.
This practice usually takes place "If a tree farmer's trying to meet a certain price point and the tree doesn't come out looking like it should, the obvious answer to fix it is to use dyes," gardening expert Chris McKeowen said. "The tree is dyed to be a good color for the consumer."
McKeowen says the dyes mask the effects of poor growing conditions.
The yellowing of the needles is one reason why a farmer might decide to dye the tree because you can tell it "wasn't really a high quality tree."
Viewpoints about dyed trees vary:
"We call it 'color enhanced,'" said William Feltner, who owns Uncle Bill's Garden Center in Finneytown. Feltner sells dyed trees at his lot.
He says the quality of tree has nothing to do with the decision to "enhance" or not. Feltner says the real reason is insects.
"When they come down from Michigan," he said, "they have to be sprayed for a moth that is not allowed to come into the state of Ohio. So they spray them ... and they add a coloring to that."
Feltner says his customers know about the dye and are fine with it.
"They're aware of it," he said. "That isn't an issue, nope. It's not even a concern to us."
One way you can tell if your tree has been to the beautician is by looking at its trunk.
"The trunk won't be brown," McKeowen said. "It will have the dye on it too."
Neither McKeowen nor Feltner believe there are any health risks associated with the dye but some customers have said the process has led to stains on their carpet.