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Collect Christmas branches in the forest?  These rules apply

Collect Christmas branches in the forest? These rules apply

Christmas time is decoration time! But be careful: bringing gifts from the forest can quickly result in a fine and a report. There are strict rules.

You should not take these pathside branches with you – this applies to all piles of branches that have been piled up.

The basics in a nutshell

  • At Christmas time, people like to collect wood and moss in the forest for decoration.
  • But you are not allowed to serve yourself freely, the rules also apply in the forest.
  • If in doubt, it is helpful to ask the forest owner or the responsible forester.

You pay about six francs for a bunch of fir branches at major retailers. But decor lovers know well: this is also possible for free.

Anyone currently walking through the woods will see that there are a lot of people out looking for Christmas decorations. A cone here, some moss there, a pine branch there. Unique material for wreaths and other crafts.

At the Coop you can buy a bunch of fir branches for about six francs.

But Christmas lovers should realize: There are clear rules. Violations can result in fines and fees.


The basic rule is: you can only take with you what you can carry with your bare hands. But not everything is allowed: for example, a pile of branches must be left lying around – because the forester or forest owner has prepared it.

Logged timber such as felled branches and the land and trees on which they stand belong to the owner of the forest. “Collecting harvest firewood always requires the consent of the landowner,” says Freddy Keller, a forester in the Bern-Werblenthal region.

Many people may think that because of the right to freely enter the forest and the right to mushrooms and berries, they also have the right to take felled timber with them. “But that’s not the case.”

It is not permissible to cut any trees “except with the approval of the forest owner.” If someone is arrested, a report will be filed.” The reason is property damage.

In fact, there is no problem taking the branches with you, according to the area forester. “Our most common violation is stealing firewood from firewood piles. It is recommended to purchase branches from public sales outlets.

There are hardly any ads in Bern

But implementation is not that strict. In response to a question, the Office of Forests and Natural Hazards of the canton of Bern explained that in the Maitland region “there are still no known reports of branches and trunks being cut or stolen from the forest.” The same applies to firewood.

A report is issued approximately every five years because entire trees are cut down. “But it usually concerns large trees that have been cut down illegally due to disputes between neighbors.”

Opinion poll

Helping yourself to Christmas decorations in the woods?

No, I buy decorations.


No, I don’t have any Christmas decorations.


In canton Zurich, the building department says: “Anything lying on the forest floor that one person can carry can be taken with you as long as you use it for your own decoration/use.” It is not necessary to ask the forest owner or the responsible forester about this matter.

“Collecting spruce branches or bark is only permitted from felled trees. Collecting pine cones is permitted.”

Be careful with moss

Caution is required when it comes to mosses, as they have an important function in the forest. “Algae species that grow over large areas can be collected and are common in small quantities. However, you should avoid collecting rare types of moss such as peat moss or white moss. It is prohibited to transport and sell large quantities of materials with tools in the car.”

Currently, in addition to moss, people primarily collect pine twigs, pine cones, bark, holly branches, and mistletoe. “If you need fresh spruce branches for decoration, you can often get them from Forest Service depots.”

Live tree branches, excessive moss collection, and firewood theft sometimes occur, the Zurich Building Directorate reported.