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California contributes 2011 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

The 63-foot (about the height of a 6-story building) Sierra White Fir (Abies lowiana) tree arrived on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. today (YouTube video), completing its 20-day tour across the country from its origin in California’s Stanislaus National Forest in the Central Sierra Nevada! The tree was 118 years old at harvest and weighs 8300 pounds (bole weight = 6889 and crown weight = 1411). The diameter of the tree trunk at the base is 21 inches and the width of the tree at the base of the crown is 23 feet!

In addition to the Capitol Christmas Tree (also known as “The People’s Tree”), CAL FIRE‘s Mountain Home State Forest also supplied over 100 companion trees that will be placed at other Washington D.C. buildings for the holiday season, including federal offices, congressional and senate offices, the National American Indian Museum, and the United States Supreme Court. This year is only the fourth year that California has contributed the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree – the last time was in 1995.

The tree was transported more than 4,500 miles on a double flatbed truck along this map route (PDF). The tree was placed on its side in a special cradle to maintain its shape and was fitted with a rubber bladder, which was filled with fresh water nightly, because the tree absorbed approximately 60 gallons of water each night during its trip. In keeping with this year’s theme, “California Shines,” the citizens of California have made the 5,000 ornaments that will adorn the tree (each ornament is 9 to 12 inches tall and made to withstand 3 weeks of harsh winter weather). In all, 10,000 LED Christmas lights are strung throughout the tree. The tree is decorated by the U.S. Capitol Architect and his team, which takes over a week! The tree was placed into a hole that is almost five feet deep today, and cemented into place.

The 2011 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will be illuminated by a child from 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, the lights will come on at dusk and are turned off nightly at 11:00 PM. The tree can be viewed by the public throughout the holidays until January 1, 2012.

(Note added December 14, 2011: The winner of the art contest associated with the Capitol Christmas Tree is the Livermore Art Association’s own Marc Davis, from nearby Dublin, CA! Marc’s winning photograph on canvas, “Granite Ablaze,” captures Yosemite Valley’s El Capitan and foreground trees in snow! Congratulations, Marc!)

-Bill at

Cheshire Cat Photo™ – “Your Guide to California’s Wonderland™”

You can view higher-resolution photos at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. The Cheshire Cat Photo Store on Zazzle® contains a wide variety of apparel and gifts decorated with our images of California. All locations are accessible from hereBe a “Facebook Fan” of Cheshire Cat Photo here! If you don’t see what you want or would be on our email list for updates, send us an email at

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