Web Smarts

What: Identifying your Christmas tree can be simpler than it sounds, if you learn a few key tips (see story, below). But for those who still find analyzing needles a nettlesome task, this site presents a painless alternative.

Best points: The home page of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the site offers what botanists call a "dichotomous key" for identifying your tree. It presents a series of two choices (complete with illustrations), which eventually lead to a final identification. For example, to begin with, it will ask you if the tree's leaves are needle-like or scale-like. If you choose needle-like, it will then ask if the needles occur singly or in clumps. If they're in clumps, are they in groups of two or five? And so on. Each choice takes you down a different path, and some are more complex than others - the spruces require you to decipher whether the buds are 3/8 in. or less than 1/4 in. long, with scales that point inward or outward - but each option has such clear illustrations that you can basically follow the pictures.

What you need to know: The site also offers some facts about choosing and caring for your tree, with links to the National Christmas Tree Association's site. Christmas trees are only a small part of the page, however. It also provides general gardening information, listings of books on gardening, and even a virtual tour of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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