The Tree

Species: Sierra White Fir (Abies lowiana)
Height: 63- feet at harvest
Age: 118- years old
Weight: 8300 pounds (bole weight = 6889 and crown weight = 1411)
Diameter of Trunk at Base: 21 inches
Width of tree at Base of Crown: 23 feet

No season generates more enthusiasm, heightened sense of good will, deeper traditions, and economic benefits than the annual Christmas season.

So it is only appropriate that our leaders would develop a way to focus the nation’s attention, ever so briefly, on a single and most beautiful symbol of the season – the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

In addition to the Capitol Christmas Tree, over 100 companion trees were contributed from CAL FIRE ‘s Mountain Home State Forest that will be placed at other Washington DC buildings for the holiday season. “These demonstration forests are designed to host research projects, demonstrate improved forest management practices, enhance environmental stewardship, and provide public recreation”, commented CALFIRE Director, Ken Pimlott.

Thank You CALFIRE for your partnership efforts in the 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree Program.
Road Trip to Washington DC
Trimming the Tree
US Capitol Christmas Tree Ceremony
Tree Route
Resource Management & Stewardship


Early in December each year, the Speaker of the House hosts a lighting ceremony on the lawn of the United States Capitol Building and with a simple flip of a switch, powers the 10,000 LED lights that illuminate the tree. Hundreds of people who are fortunate enough to be in D.C. attend the lighting ceremony and many thousands more will find their way to the Capitol to take in the sight.

Since 1970, it has become an honor for one of the National Forests to be asked to provide the Capitol Tree. The appointed National Forest, in turn, engages help from diverse partners throughout its respective State. The opportunity to provide the Capitol Christmas Tree becomes a state-wide celebration and civic event, leaving a lasting impression on all who are fortunate enough to be involved.

2011 will be only the fourth year California has contributed the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, the last time was in 1995. Known as “The People’s Tree”, the 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree will be harvested from the Stanislaus National Forest located in the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

The Forest Service recommends 8 to 10 trees to the superintendent of thecapitol grounds, who makes the final selection of which tree will be the official U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Several aspects are taken into account during the selection, including the shape and fullness of the tree, the tree color and foliage condition, and species characteristics of needle retention and branch pliability. Of course, access to the tree for ease of cutting, loading, and transporting are also considered.

It is estimated that the tree selected will be approximately 60 feet tall. Imagine a 6-story tall building—that is about how tall the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will be.

An additional 100 companion trees will be delivered to the Washington D.C. area and placed in federal offices, congressional and senate offices, the National American Indian Museum, and the United States Supreme Court.

Road Trip to Washington DC

California’s tree will travel throughout the state visiting many cities and towns before it journeys to Washington, D.C. The California state tour is estimated to take about 8 days.

The U. S. Capitol Christmas Tree 2011 will also make frequent stops in communities across the nation on its way to Washington, D. C. The national tour will take an additional 12 days. The tree will be escorted by federal officials and have 24 hour a day Law Enforcement protection. A second full-sized semi-truck will be needed to transport all the ornaments and smaller trees to Washington, D. C.

The caravan will travel more than 4,500 miles during its three week tour. The tree will be transported on a double flatbed truck. Placed on its side, it will rest in a custom made cradle that supports the branches, preventing damage and maintaining the tree’s perfect shape. The base of the tree will be fitted with a rubber bladder filled with fresh water nightly. The tree will absorb approximately 60 gallons of water each day throughout its journey to Washington, D.C.

Trimming the Tree

Some neat facts!
The Citizens of California will make the 5,000 ornaments used to decorate the tree. The ornaments will be 9 to 12 inches tall and must be made to withstand 3 weeks of harsh winter weather.
10,000 LED Christmas lights are strung throughout the tree.
It takes more than a week for the U. S. Capitol Architect and his team to decorate.
The Capitol Christmas Tree is topped by the same single star ornament used each year.
The tree will be placed into a hole nearly five feet deep and cemented into place.
Although U. S. Capitol Christmas Trees are varied heights, when installed they can be no taller that 60 feet.
The Capitol landscape crew does not have a basket crane taller than that!
An additional 2,000 ornaments will be made for the 100 companion trees displayed throughout Washington, D. C. offices and buildings.

US Capitol Christmas Tree Ceremony

Called “The People’s Tree”, the U. S. Capitol Christmas Tree from California will actually be presented to Congress as a gift from the Golden State.

The 2011 U. S. Capitol Christmas Tree will be illuminated by a child from the state of California along with the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. The California Congressional Delegation, Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and California Governor Jerry Brown will also likely be in attendance.

Once the tree is lit, it is open for public viewing throughout the holidays until January 1, 2012. The lights come on at dusk and are turned off nightly at 11:00 p.m.

Tree Route

From California to Washington, D. C.
California’s gift to the people of the United States will be a beautiful red fir from the Stanislaus National Forest. Likely taller than a 6-story building at harvest, the tree will be cut on Saturday, November 5, 2011, and will tour the state of California for approximately 8 days. After the California tour, the Capitol Christmas Tree will travel across the country on its way to Washington, D. C.

Route for 2011 U. S. Capitol Christmas Tree
The route is still being determined. Would your community like to celebrate the tree with us?

Resource Management & Stewardship

The U. S. Capitol Christmas Tree will come from the Stanislaus National Forest, in Central California. All aspects of the National Environmental Policy Act will be observed throughout the process of selecting and removing the tree. In January 2012, when the holiday concludes, the tree will be chipped into mulch and placed throughout the Capitol Complex.