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Drought Means No Tree for Some Christmas Shoppers

A new industry survey found that many water-conscious Californians won’t buy a live Christmas tree this year because of the drought, and dry conditions have reduced the size of the harvest for some growers after a proportion of their trees dried out in the summer months.

Written by Matt Weiser Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes
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As many as 27 percent of Californians say they will not buy a live Christmas tree this year because of the ongoing drought.

That’s according to a new survey by the American Christmas Tree Association. In total, the survey found that nearly one-third of Californians are considering the drought in their tree purchases this year.

Nine percent said they won’t buy a tree at all as a result. And 18 percent said they would display an artificial tree for the first time and would not buy a live tree.

Jami Warner, executive director of the association, indicated the results were not surprising, given that live Christmas trees require at least a gallon of water a day to remain green after cutting, and to avoid becoming a fire hazard in the home.

“Clearly, the drought is changing the holiday behaviors of many in California,” said Warner, who lives in California. “With harsh watering restrictions mandated across the state, a gallon of water per day becomes significant, especially since Christmas trees are typically displayed for 36 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.”

Warner did say there will be an adequate supply of live trees for consumers who choose them this year, despite the drought.

“Of course, we hope the drought will not keep those who celebrate Christmas from celebrating with a Christmas tree,” Warner said.

In Oregon, which produces more Christmas trees than any other state, the market is holding up just fine, even though that state is experiencing a milder drought of its own.

Steve Randall, owner of Porter Hill Tree Farms in Estacada, Ore., told KOIN TV News that some seedlings died off this summer, but other varieties have deeper roots and are feeding off water deeper in the ground.

He said fewer trees will be harvested this year, which will help maintain pricing power.

“We’ve shipped some already to New York City and Oklahoma and Texas,” Randall said. “Usually the later markets are California where they don’t have to travel so far.”

In some markets, such as Las Vegas, there are fewer pop-up Christmas Tree stands available to consumers because there are fewer trees on the market.

Ron Herrington, a Christmas tree farmer in Roseburg, Ore., says most Christmas trees take six to eight years to grow to maturity. The drought dried out his five-year-old Grand firs. Only his eight-year-old Douglas firs survived.

“The drought is very serious, not just in California but in many other parts of the nation,” Warner said. “Rain is something we should all have on our Christmas wish list this season.”

Top image: Oregon Christmas tree growers report that some Grand firs didn’t survive water shortages this year, although Douglas firs did fine. (Texas A&M University)

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