Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 22  |  Friday, December 17, 1999  |  Number 24
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

The Talk of the Lab

In the past, FermiNews has explained to readers how to make antiprotons, kaons and muon neutrinos. Now from the Official Fermilab Cookbook comes this recipe for..

Fire Retardant for Christmas Trees

Two cups of Karo syrup
Two ounces liquid chlorine bleach
Two pinches Epsom salts
One-half teaspoon Borax
One teaspoon chelated iron
Hot water to fill two-gallon bucket

You can purchase the Karo syrup, Borax and liquid chlorine bleach from the supermarket. The Epsom salts can be purchased from the drug store and the chelated (pronounced KEY-lated) iron can be purchased from a garden shop or plant store.


1. Fill a two-gallon bucket with hot water to within one inch of the top and add the remaining ingredients. Stir thoroughly, dissolving ingredients. Set aside.

2. With a saw, cut an inch off the bottom of the trunk of your recently purchased tree. Try to make a level cut.

3 Immediately stand the trunk of the tree in the solution and leave for 24 hours.

4. Keep the remaining solution. Place your tree in a tree stand that contains a well for liquid.

5. When the tree is in its final resting place, use a plastic cup to pour solution from the bucket into the tree well. Fill the well.

6 Every day without exception, “top up” the well of the tree with the solution from the two-gallon bucket.

Following these directions will fireproof your tree and help protect your home and family from fire. If you’re curious, after Christmas when you remove your tree, snap off a branch as an experiment and try to set the branch on fire, OUTDOORS.

How does the solution work?

In a nutshell, the Karo syrup provides the sugar necessary to allow the base of the tree to take up water. Up to 1.5 gallons of water can be taken up by the tree over a two-week period. Boron in the Borax allows the tree to move the water and sugar out to every branch and needle in the tree. Magnesium compounds in the Epsom salts and iron from the chelated iron provide components for the production of chlorophyll to help keep the tree green. The bleach prevents mold from forming in the solution. Some of the other beneficial side effects of this procedure are that the needles will not drop, and you will notice an increase in natural evergreen fragrance.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

David Nevin, Head, Facilities Engineering Services Section

last modified 12/17/1999   email Fermilab