By KIMBERLY BOWKER

The (Bend, Ore.) Bulletin via Associated Press

BEND, Ore. (AP) -- Santa Claus isn't the only one with a lot of responsibility this Christmas. A Bend company is tasked with keeping the nation's Christmas tree fresh from its cutting later this week until its arrival in Washington, D.C., three weeks later.

The Capitol Christmas Tree, which will be erected in front of the U.S. Capitol building the first week of December, will be protected and nourished during its cross-country journey with products from GSI Horticultural of Bend.

An 85-foot blue spruce from the White Mountains in Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest will be cut on Saturday and begin its three-week journey a few days later through Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland on the back of a flatbed truck.

GSI Horticultural products -- Moisturin and Root-Zone -- will help the tree remain healthy during its 20-day trip through various climates.

"There was quite a concern that it might end up in the capital brown and with its needles falling off," said Jim Glessner, CEO and co-owner of the company.

GSI Horticultural manufactures anti-transpirant and anti-desiccant products to retain moisture in trees, plants and other agricultural products.

Trees transpire like a human body perspires, Glessner explained. Moisture is emitted through a tree's stomata on its foliage, similar to the pores of human skin.

Moisturin, a product that is sprayed on the surface of the tree, will be applied twice to the blue spruce in Arizona about two days before it is cut, according to Richard Davalos, Capitol Christmas Tree 2009 coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service.

The product protects the surface of the tree by keeping in moisture, and keeping out insects and diseases.

Root-Zone, the other GSI Horticultural product to be used, will be mixed with water and will nourish the tree's roots while it is traveling. Root-Zone convinces the plant that it is under stress and encourages it to produce a natural stress hormone, abscisic acid. The hormone shuts down the plant's stomata so it retains moisture.

"I think that the combination of the two will keep the tree green and not lose its needles," Glessner said, "because what we are doing here is a severe test."

This is the first Capitol Christmas Tree from Arizona. Trees are usually picked from northern climes, according to Glessner, so this will be a test to see how well the tree endures.

GSI Horticultural has been in business for 10 years. Its products were used to protect trees shipped to China for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The business previously only sold to major growers, but has recently released other versions of its products for home use.

Similar products have been used in past years for Christmas tree transportation, Davalos said, but this is the first year for GSI Horticulture to be used. The company was chosen based on recommendations of other growers and Art Dailey, an arborist with the Arizona Community Tree Council.

Davalos will accompany the tree on its journey to Washington, D.C. Stops along the route will provide communities a chance to view the tree, and celebrate with parades, caroling, guest speakers and presentations.

The tree will reach the capital on Nov. 30, and the lighting ceremony will be Dec. 8.

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Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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