The Rome's official Christmas tree stands in front of the Unknown monument in Piazza Venezia Square. Picture: Alessandra Tarantino/AP
The Rome's official Christmas tree stands in front of the Unknown monument in Piazza Venezia Square. Picture: Alessandra Tarantino/AP
This combo picture shows at left Rome's official Christmas tree placed in Piazza Venezia Square and at right the one placed in St. Peters's Square at the Vatican. Picture: Alessandra Tarantino/AP
This combo picture shows at left Rome's official Christmas tree placed in Piazza Venezia Square and at right the one placed in St. Peters's Square at the Vatican. Picture: Alessandra Tarantino/AP
The Rome's official Christmas tree stands in front of the Unknown Soldier monument in Piazza Venezia Square. Despite the tree's 600 silver-coloured decorative balls, the half-bare branches lend the square a forlorn rather than festive look. Picture: Alessandra Tarantino/AP
The Rome's official Christmas tree stands in front of the Unknown Soldier monument in Piazza Venezia Square. Despite the tree's 600 silver-coloured decorative balls, the half-bare branches lend the square a forlorn rather than festive look. Picture: Alessandra Tarantino/AP
The Christmas tree set in St. Peters's Square at the Vatican. Picture: Alessandra Tarantino/AP
The Christmas tree set in St. Peters's Square at the Vatican. Picture: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Rome - Rome's official Christmas tree is shedding needles so quickly it has become a jolly joke for city residents.

The 21-meter- (70-foot-) high tree, which was lit up on December 8, started dropping needles at a fast clip as soon as it was hoisted into the middle of bustling Rome's main square, Piazza Venezia.

Romans have dubbed the tree "The Mangy One." They're also needling Rome's mayor about the forlorn-looking specimen, which cost 48 000 euros (arounds R725 000) to transport from South Tyrol, an Italian Alpine region.

The city said Tuesday it is investigating why the tree is ailing.

Despite the tree's 600 silver-colored decorative balls, the half-bare branches lend the square a forlorn rather than festive look.

Critics note that across town, the Vatican's Christmas tree, from Poland, appears healthy.

Associated Press