Botanical Forest Products Table of Contents]

Floral and greenery products

Profile of industry in British Columbia

The forests of British Columbia provide a rich diversity of shrubs, herbs and mosses for use as commercial floral and greenery products. These products can be grouped into five different categories: greenery, conifer boughs, aromatic oils, basketry filler and fresh or dried flowers.

Plants having a deep green color and long-lasting evergreen properties are desired commodities in the international market of greenery products. Such products are used by the decorative floral industry to accent or complement flowers in floral arrangements. Some of the most common plants harvested for the floral industry include salal (Gaultheria shallon), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), boxwood (Pachistima myrsinites), evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) and deer fern (Blechnum spicant).

The majority of the species used for greenery can be harvested throughout the year, except during the spring growing season. During the spring, the plant tips are very sensitive to harvest, transportation and storage. In some areas of the province, many products are not harvestable during the winter months, when snow covers the forest floor and blocks forest roads.

Conifer boughs and cones are used extensively during the Christmas season for manufacturing wreaths and for other decorations. These particular products are harvested almost exclusively during the fall and winter. Some of the species used to produce Christmas decorations include western redcedar (Thuja plicata), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western white pine (Pinus monticola) and grand fir (Abies grandis). Among the characteristics that these species have in common is a tendency to retain their needles for prolonged periods after harvest.

Essential oils are concentrated, aromatic oils found in plant leaves, flowers, seed, bark, roots and the rinds of some fruits. In British Columbia, the most commercially important essential oil is obtained from the leaves of western redcedar. Cedar leaf oil has been used commercially for more than 100 years. Cedar leaf oil is common as an ingredient of pine and cedar blends of room sprays, talcs, insecticides, industrial cleaners, perfumes, shoe polishes and soaps (Thomas and Schumann 1993). Cedar leaf oil is also used in various medicinal preparations (see the following “Medicinal and pharmaceutical products” chapter).

The floral and greenery industry has three distinct components: harvesting; processing; and marketing. Harvesters are typically self-employed, part-time seasonal workers. They harvest a range of products, then sell their products to various processors, usually on a cash-only basis. Processors, as the name implies, prepare the plant materials for subsequent sale to wholesalers or brokers or in some cases directly to retailers. Most processors have a core of full-time, year-round employees to process materials harvested throughout the year. Temporary full-time employees are normally hired during the fall and kept until early December to handle the high volume of evergreen boughs needed for Christmas decorations (Schlosser and Blatner 1993).

A survey of industry participants and Forest Service staff has helped to identify 31 different species used for floral and greenery products in British Columbia. These botanical forest products can be grouped into five different categories based on end use: aromatic oils, basketry filler, Christmas decorations, fresh/dried flowers and greenery. Table 6 presents the available data for floral and greenery products on the basis of species, plant material used and type of product.

All products shown in Table 6 are generated by commercial-scale harvesting. Some products, however, such as those used for Christmas decorations also result from personal harvesting.

The Ministry of Forests, under the Forest Act, currently authorizes only the harvest of western redcedar foliage (aromatic oils) and western white pine boughs (Christmas decorations) from Crown lands. The requirements for authorization are discussed in the following sections.

Cedar foliage

In the Kamloops and Nelson forest regions, the harvest of western redcedar foliage has been allowed under Section 58 of the Forest Act. Section 58 states that a regional manager (or person designated by regional manager) may authorize use of Crown land for “any purpose that the regional manager considers compatible with timber harvesting.” Vernon, Salmon Arm and Arrow forest districts currently authorize harvest of cedar foliage from designated harvest areas. At present, six different types of areas have been approved for cedar foliage harvesting. These areas in order of priority are:

  1. unharvested areas approved for clearcutting
  2. areas with ongoing, approved clearcutting
  3. post-harvesting areas: residual branches and tops from standing trees awaiting three-metre knockdown
  4. rights-of-way (B.C. Hydro, Ministry of Transportation and Highways)
  5. forestry operations roads (excluding private and public roads) that would benefit from right-of-way brushing
  6. areas where juvenile spacing has been completed.

Potential cedar foliage harvesters must follow specific steps to obtain a cedar foliage collection agreement. The harvester must first submit an application for a cedar foliage collection agreement to the district manager. In this application, the harvester must identify the volume of cedar foliage to be harvested and the intended harvest site(s). If the application for cedar foliage collection is successful a form of agreement is then signed by the prospective harvester and the district manager.

On the agreement form, the cedar foliage harvester agrees to abide by prescribed harvesting conditions and specifications. To ensure that harvesting meets these conditions, the cedar foliage harvester is required to place a security deposit with the district manager.

Under the cedar foliage harvesting agreement, a forest officer may suspend operations if terms of the agreement are not being met. If the agreement terms are repeatedly disregarded, the agreement may be cancelled by the district manager with 30 days written notice.

Upon completion of harvesting operations, the cedar foliage harvester must indicate to the district manager (in writing) that all agreement conditions have been met, before the security deposit is returned. This security deposit may be returned to the cedar foliage harvester only after inspection by a forest officer establishes that all agreement conditions are fulfilled. The security deposit may be withheld, in whole or in part, if the agreement conditions are not met to the satisfaction of the district manager.

Data on the amount of cedar foliage harvested in 1991 for the purpose of oil extraction is available from the Kamloops and Nelson forest regions. Table 7 summarizes the quantity of western redcedar foliage harvested and volume of oil extracted in each forest district.

White pine boughs

White pine plantations in British Columbia are susceptible to white pine blister rust. In 1978 in the Sunshine Coast forest district, the Ministry of Forests began pruning operations as a treatment for white pine blister rust. Initially, the Ministry of Forests was responsible for these pruning activities, granting harvesters permission to remove pruned white pine boughs only. Between 1978 and 1982, the Ministry of Forests began to delegate responsibility for pruning to bough harvesters. The forest district developed the white pine pruning authorization letter in 1982.

All potential harvesters of white pine boughs on Crown land must first apply for a white pine pruning authorization letter from the district’s forest health resource assistant. This letter of authorization prescribes harvesting procedures, establishes a harvesting schedule and designates harvesting areas. The letter of authorization, however, does not require the harvester to estimate the quantity to be harvested. The letter also does not require a security deposit, nor does it outline conditions for suspension or cancellation.

Harvesting in other jurisdictions


The most widely sold botanical forest product in the United States is conifer boughs, used for making wreaths. Many states have large wreath-making industries. In Minnesota, for example, the bough and wreath business results in an estimated $10 million (U.S.) in sales to both commercial and individual entrepreneurs. Throughout Minnesota hundreds of local bough harvesters sell to local buyers who represent bough and wreath companies. Not all wreath-making is dependent on the holiday market. Twig-type wreaths made from birch branches and other pliable materials are sold throughout the year (Thomas and Schumann 1993).

Birch, ironwood and alder tops are examples of relatively new botanical forest products being harvested in Minnesota and other upper Midwest states. Approximately 80,000 to 100,000 tree tops are harvested annually. Artificial leaves are added to these tops before marketing. These products are then used as decorative, lifelike trees in commercial settings such as hotel lobbies and shopping malls (Thomas and Schumann 1993).

Pacific Northwest (including British Columbia)

In 1989, Schlosser et al. (1991) initiated a preliminary study of floral and greenery products harvested in the Pacific Northwest. The authors found that greenery and conifer bough products generated about $128.5 million (U.S.) in sales at the wholesale level in 1989. The study showed that the producers of western Washington, western Oregon and southeastern British Columbia purchased $38 million worth of floral greens and $9.6 million worth of conifer boughs from the Pacific Northwest region.

Salal was the most valuable crop in 1989, with a total of $13.1 million paid to harvesters. Bear-grass was the second most valuable crop, with $11.5 million paid to harvesters. Pacific Northwest producers also paid evergreen huckleberry and sword fern harvesters approximately $1.7 million and $1.5 million respectively. Other floral and greenery products, including Oregon-grape, Scotch broom and moss, accounted for about $2.3 million of revenue for harvesters (Schlosser and Blatner 1993).

The floral and greenery industry employed more than 10,000 full-time and part-time employees during 1989. Data for the greenery segment of the industry indicate that about 700 individuals were employed as full-time, year-round employees, and approximately 4,180 individuals were full-time seasonal employees involved in processing. About 5,400 independent harvesters collected greenery during 1989.

The labor-intensive harvesting of conifer boughs was performed by more than 5,000 harvesters between October and December 1989. During this short season, processors also employed about 4,200 individuals to produce wreaths and other Christmas and holiday decorations. Schlosser and Blatner (1994) note that many of the businesses that process evergreen boughs are also involved in greenery processing.

Return to top back Forward