The Christmas tree decorating the Texas House chamber this year doesn't shed needles, touch off sneezing fits or create a potential fire hazard.
The artificial tree, made in China of polyvinyl chloride, is 10 feet shorter than the homegrown tree put up last year.
"Oh no, oh no," reacted Lanny Dreesen, spokesman for the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association, whose members annually produce 200,000 Christmas trees.
"I wonder if they ate plastic turkey for Thanksgiving last week," Dreesen was quoted as saying in Tuesday's San Antonio Express-News.
"We didn't kill any trees," responded Bob Richter, spokesman for House Speaker Tom Craddick. "This tree could be useful in the Texas House for 100 years."
Nadine Craddick, wife of the House speaker, accepted the donated tree from The Market, an Austin store, where a model of the tree with 3,500 lights retails for $3,395. Craddick said she accepted the tree for several reasons, adding: "We didn't say this would be forever. It was just for this year."
On Monday, workers on the House floor hung new decorations on the 15-foot flame-resistant, synthetic Oregon fir.
"It's a lot less work," Craddick said. "A real tree can dry out and shed. And I understand that in the past, sometimes bugs would come in with these trees. So we decided to try something a little bit different this year.
"You have to look very hard to tell the difference," she said.
She said she and her husband have never had a real tree in 34 years of marriage.
A towering Texas-grown tree has graced the House floor during the winter holiday season for more than two decades, said Brent Leisure, former superintendent of Bastrop State Park.
Those trees, usually harvested at an Army camp between Bastrop and Elgin, were delivered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Last year, a 25-foot Bastrop County Eastern red cedar occupied the showcase spot in the House chamber.
Leisure called the change "a bit disappointing."
"It's a tradition," he said. "But it is the Capitol's tree."
Three real Christmas trees are being housed in the Capitol this year, including one donated by the House to be used as an Angel Tree for needy children.