After Drought, Texas Christmas Trees Face New Foe

Drought takes no prisoners, and Christmas trees are no exception. The 2011 drought decimated Texas wildlife, and not even resilient evergreens could take the heat. This left Christmas tree farmers in Texas with little or no trees to sell during the holidays. Some farms, like Evergreen Farms in Elgin, shipped in trees from Washington State and North Carolina to sell instead. Other farms had no choice but to close their doors.

This year, things have changed.

“We didn’t lose any from the drought this year, and we lost hundreds and hundreds last year,” says Mike Walterscheidt, owner of Evergreen Farms.

This year’s wetter summer weather improved tree growth, so Evergreen Farms is back to cutting down trees in the field.

However, many customers are driving home again this year with a out-of-state fir strapped to the roof of their car. Even though Texas trees are for sale, Walterscheidt is also bringing in and selling the northern trees. And often times, they’re what customers prefer.

While “people really want to cut down their tree many times,” Walterscheidt says, once they get a good look at the Texas trees, it’s a hard decision. The northern firs are taller and greener, while the Texas trees show a duller green and are shorter, all thanks to the drought.

“They should be seven and eight feet tall and now they’re only four or five,” says Beth Walterscheidt, Mike’s wife. “It kind of stunts their growth even though we did water.” The Walterscheidts use drip irrigation to water trees, but that can only go so far. Trees need rainfall.

Even the Capitol opted out of a Texas tree this year. They couldn’t find a tall enough Texas-grown tree for the front of the capitol building but unlike the average consumer, they’re not actually allowed to purchase a non-Texas tree. So, they went artificial.

Farmers like the Walterschmidts are hopeful for a wetter year next year. Even though the past couple years haven’t been great, evergreens are able to bounce back and meet their growing potential if they receive plenty of rainfall the summer before they’re cut down. So we all know what they’re asking for from Santa this year, the same thing on the wishlist of Texans across the state: rain.

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