Thousands of Christmas trees every year will never be adorned with twinkling lights and an angel — but that doesn't mean they won't serve a purpose.

They sit on the lot, shoved in a corner, deemed by last-minute shoppers to be too wiry or too short, too bushy or too tall. Those trees get tossed back on the truck and will find new life in a variety of surprising uses, either cannibalized to feed younger generations of trees or repurposed as a source of heat, shelter or even food.

Veteran tree grower Murray Crouse with the Lunenburg Balsam Fir Co-operative in Nova Scotia said he's generally able to cut close to the number of trees he needs. 

"But if you get caught with a bad weekend, something like that, you could be caught with, you know, 25, 30, 40 trees," Crouse said.

"Then we decide after Christmas ways that we can best dispose of them without complete and total waste."

Murray Crouse Christmas tree

Murray Crouse lines his home with boughs from leftover Christmas trees for added insulation. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Crouse turns some unwanted Christmas trees into bird feeders around his home. A bit of meat fat hanging in the tree can provide a nice home for feathered friends during the cold months ahead. 

He uses others to keep his own home warm. The foundation of Crouse's home is lined with boughs to help insulate the walls.

'A use and a value'

In many cases, tree growers return the trees to the ground from which they came.

"We'll cut them up and use them for mulch around the other trees," said Randy Naugler of Naugler's Traditional Evergreen Tree Farms in Bridgewater.

"They'll end up becoming organic matter and feeding the trees fertilizer," he said. "Everything has a use and a value."

Neighbouring goat farms also recognize the value of recycling the trees. Several farms collect trees after the holidays to be used as fodder for the goats. Evergreens make a natural de-worming medicine for goats, and using them for feed helps farmers cut down on costs.

"We like that bonus of it," said Craig Sarty, who raises goats and cows in Rhodes Corner. "And the goats crave it. They really love it." 

Christmas tree wood chips

Christmas trees can also be chipped up into wood chips and used as mulch. (Stephanie vanKampen/ CBC)

Sable Island horse fence

Christmas trees have even been used on Sable Island, a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean that is home to wild horses.

"They had used snow fences with wire," Crouse said. "That caused a problem with the ponies.There were some injuries." 

And so they switched to a biodegradable option: Christmas trees.

'A lot of options'

Christmas tree grower Lloyd Smith said 90 per cent of the time he doesn't have stock left over.

He cuts in small batches and hauls them to the city as needed. But when he does have leftovers, he uses those as firewood. 

"There's a lot of options that you can do with your tree if you stop and think about it," Smith said.

Christmas trees also can be added to animal enclosures, turned into wood chips or mulch, used for erosion control or fish habitat in streams.