MadSci Network: Botany

Re: Does aspirin help preserve Christmas trees?

Date: Fri Feb 16 15:35:06 2001
Posted By: Henri Maurice, Chair of Biology, University of Southern Indiana
Area of science: Botany
ID: 976587150.Bt

Aspirin contains salicylic acid which is known to prevent the growth of 
microorganisms found in water.  Salicylic acid is produced by some plants in 
response to attacks by pathogens and so it may have some protective 
function.  This chemical also acidifies water and acid solutions move up the 
stem more readily.  However in the typical cut flower and in your case 
Christmas tree, aspirin does not seem to have a huge effect.  Work done on 
Fraser Fir indicates that using aspirin may in fact cause much more needle 
drop than plain water.  A number of different chemicals and chemical mixes 
were tested.  It turned out that there were two outcomes.  One, as was the 
case with aspirin, resulted in increased needle loss.  The other result was 
that no treatment was better than water.  The take home message is that the 
only thing necessary to keep the needles on the tree is water.  So while 
adding aspirin to water used in cut flowers may only slightly enhance 
longevity (in reality there doesn't seem to be much significant difference 
between using aspirin or water alone) at least in Fraser fir there seems to 
be very significant needle drop.  Don't use aspirin on your cut Christmas 

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