5 Ways to Make a Chemistree Christmas Tree

A chemistree is a festive and educational holiday decoration. There are several ways to make a chemistree, so no matter what materials you have, you can celebrate the season with chemistry!

Chemistry Glassware Chemistree

Glassware Chemistree
Glassware Chemistree

If you have access to a laboratory, a glassware chemistree is stunning. The basic idea is that a support stand, such as a ring stand, acts as the “tree” trunk. Small glass flasks are attached to the stand using clamps or rings to act as ornaments. Tiny volumetric or boiling flasks are perfect, although uncommon in many labs. The flasks may be filled with colored water, color-change solutions, or interesting chemical reactions. Feel free to add other glassware to complete the tree shape, such as glass tubing for a garland. The top of the tree could be an atom decoration, inverted flask, or borax crystal star.

  • Support stand
  • Clamps or retort rings
  • Small flasks
  • Colored water

While beautiful, this type of chemistree is expensive for an individual to make. Support stands start around $25. Clamps aren’t cheap, either. Plastic flasks may be used instead of glass, so that helps limit the expense. But, if you have access to a lab, give it a go. This is the classic chemistree!

Grow a Silver Christmas Tree

This holiday tree is a chemistree because a chemical reaction causes the silver crystals to grow. Silver branches out into tree-like dendrites. 

Silver often forms dendrites, which resemble metal crystal trees. (Rob Lavinsky / iRocks.com)
Silver often forms dendrites, which resemble metal crystal trees. (Rob Lavinsky / iRocks.com)
  • Copper wire or sheet
  • Silver nitrate solution

You can wrap uncoated copper wire into a tree shape or cut a tree from a copper sheet. Place the tree in a clear container (so you can watch crystals grow). Pour the silver nitrate solution into the container so the tree is completely covered. Silver crystals will grow over the copper. Note: Silver nitrate is a little pricey, so make a fairly small tree that will fit inside a beaker or jar. Save leftover solution for other projects.

A small-scale version of this project is to place a drop of silver nitrate on copper and watch the tree-shaped metal crystals form real-time under magnification. While sparkly and pretty, this tiny tree is too small to use as a decoration. It’s best for a holiday themed science project.

Grow a Crystal Tree

Crystal Christmas Tree
Crystal Christmas Tree

This fun tree is widely available as an inexpensive kit around the holiday, plus it’s easy to do yourself.

  • 3 tablespoons household ammonia
  • 3 tablespoons iron(III) ferrocyanide solution (Mrs. Stewarts Laundry Bluing)
  • 1 tablespoon table salt
  • food coloring
  • cardboard or construction paper
  • shallow dish

The laundry bluing is easy to find online if you can’t find it at a store. What you do is cut two sheets of paper into a tree shape. Cut vertically down the middle of each tree so that you can slide one onto the other to form a three-dimensional tree (base looks like an “X”). You can dot food coloring on the points of the tree to make colored ornaments or green coloring to make a green tree. Otherwise, the crystals will grow white.

Stand the tree in a shallow dish. Mix together the chemicals and dribble them onto the tree to wet it. Pour the remaining liquid in the base of the dish. Crystal growth becomes visible within a few minutes and is complete within a matter of hours.

Decorate a Tree With Chemistry Ornaments

Holiday Molecule Ornaments
Holiday Molecule Ornaments

Another type of chemistree is a tree that is decorated with ornaments either about chemistry or else made using chemistry. Examples of ornaments include:

To make molecule ornaments, start with round objects for the atoms. Good choices include marbles, gum balls, craft pom poms, or round candies. Stick the atoms together to form molecules. If you’re doing this project with kids, you can use honey or corn syrup rather than glue to stick “atoms” together. To hang the molecules, either tie a thread around them or else glue a hanger to them.

Note to cat owners: The pom pom ornaments appear to be irresistible to felines. If you hang them on a holiday tree, you can expect added excitement.

Chemistry Cat
Chemistry Cat

Periodic Table Chemistree

The simplest option is to simply print a periodic table chemistree and use it as a poster. Here is a periodic table holiday tree with all 118 elements:

Periodic Table Chemistree
Periodic Table Chemistree

Another version of this tree with colored element ornaments is also available.