Why Do Christmas Trees Smell So Good?

Jessica Clifton

by Jessica Clifton

11th December 2019

Nothing beats the smell of a real Christmas tree, and for most people, it means that the holiday season is here. Compared to a fake tree that often has a plasticky odour, a real Christmas tree has a refreshing smell that makes you feel that you are outdoors in a forest. Wondering why Christmas trees smell so good? Here are some chemical compounds that are responsible for that piney Christmas tree smell.


A Christmas tree emits such a piney aroma because of resin. This is produced by a variety of trees such as pine, spruce, and fir. Its main purpose is to protect the tree from pests and other diseases by acting as a deterrent. When you try to injure a tree by scratching or stabbing it, resin rushes out of the wound to quickly seal it. Most trees produce resin in response to a wound, but it can also be produced by other parts of the tree such as branches and cones.

Pine trees producing resin which give off the Christmassy aroma

Resin is found all over the tree, including its trunk, twigs, cones, and even needles. Initially, the resin will appear clear and will gradually turn yellow as it ages outside the tree. Conifer trees often have more resin in them than hardwood trees. Out of all the varieties of Christmas trees, pines have the most resin.

Chemical compounds behind the Christmas tree smell

Another secret to why Christmas trees smell so good is due to terpenes. It has two forms of molecules within it which are α-Pinene and β-Pinene. β-Pinene has a woody fragrance, while α-Pinene smells similar to turpentine. These chemical compounds are a part of resin and they provide forests with that refreshing smell while protecting the trees.

Another interesting fact is that these pinene and other types of terpenes are controlled by the plants to match their environment. During warm weather, terpenes react with the air to produce aerosols which then promote cloud formations that can help cool the plant’s environment. Terpenes have been used for perfumes, aromatherapies, medicines, and cleaning products because of their aromatic and healing properties.

Why does my Christmas tree have no smell?

Having the right type of Christmas tree doesn’t mean that you will have that refreshing outdoor smell. Two factors can affect the smell of your Christmas tree. The first is the health and hydration levels of your tree. Naturally, a freshly cut tree will be more fragrant than a tree that has been cut for a longer period. If the tree is unable to remain hydrated, the sap will not be able to move which means the scent will be harder to release.

Pine Christmas smell good because of the resin they produce

The second factor is the species of tree you have. Different types of trees produce different scents, and there are kinds of trees that can better retain their fragrance after being cut than other kinds. This is why it’s always important to always aim for freshly cut pine trees in order to acquire that Christmas aroma.


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