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Gardner: Why so few Christmas trees?

We have a shortage of Christmas trees and there are several reasons. Climate change, more rainfall, truck driver shortages, and a recession 10 years ago are all factors.

Posted Updated

By
Elizabeth Gardner
, WRAL meteorologist

Holiday decorations are going up, and people are getting into the spirit of the holiday. Some families head to the mountains during the weekend after Thanksgiving to choose and cut one of our beautiful NC Fraser firs. We started this tradition with my family when my daughter was a toddler.  Each year we travel to the same Christmas tree farm in Virginia. 

Family photo

When we started visiting this farm around 2007, there were trees covering all the hillsides. Over the years, there have been fewer and fewer trees.

There are several reasons for this. One is climate change. According to an NCSU Christmas tree expert, Fraser firs naturally grow in some of the highest elevations in NC. Farmers brought them to lower elevations to grow because it’s easier for them to farm and manage the land there.  Because of that, the trees are already at one of the lowest elevations where they are able to grow.  Our warming climate is threatening to cause temperatures at those elevations to be too high for the trees to survive.

Winter warming

More rainfall is another climate issue affecting the trees. In some parts of the mountains, rainfall amounts have increased significantly over the last 10 years. That makes the trees more susceptible to root rot and insect infestations.  

Heavy rainfall

An agriculture extension agent from NCSU says there are other issues affecting natural trees this year.

A shortage of truck drivers means fewer trees delivered to central NC from the mountains. If more people go to the mountains for choose and cut trees, that could cause a shortage there. 

Another problem? Ten years ago, we were in a recession and the demand for trees was much lower.  Growers didn’t plant as many trees that year. Most evergreens take 8-10 years to grow large enough for most homes.  This is another reason for our current shortage.  One bit of good news:  NC has more trees than other states.  Our state is the second largest Christmas tree producer in the country.

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