Christmas tree shortage: Extreme heat in Pacific Northwest limits supply

An unwanted impact from summer's record heat could play the role of the Grinch this holiday season for growers of Christmas Trees in the Pacific Northwest.

Some of the country's best growing areas for Christmas trees experienced one of their worst heat waves in June. Over several days, high temperatures in Oregon and Washington topped 100 degrees, setting records.

 "The problem with that 116-degree stretch we had is that it was in late June. We were still in the growing season. If that had happened in July or August, the effects would have been dramatically different," Tom Norby, the Oregon Christmas Tree Growers Association president, said.

Norby is also the owner of the Trout Creek Tree Farm in Corbett, Oregon, and says that some trees suffered from "sun scalds," which are similar to a human's sunburn.

The damage is visible as orange and brown discoloration on the trees' needles.

"Some of the trees were damaged pretty severely because of the extreme heat, but some farmers out here actually had no damage," Norby said.

Tree experts say sun-scorched trees can recover, but recovery takes time, which could sideline Christmas trees close to market.  

Tim O'Connor, the National Christmas Tree Association executive director, said that while the Pacific Northwest might decrease production, areas in other growing belts around the country can easily make up for any shortfalls.

"The extreme heat created unique impacts on a microclimate scale," O'Connor said.

Despite extreme weather events, the multi-billion industry is on track to meet the country's demand. 

The association reports that Americans purchase between 20 to 30 million natural Christmas trees each year.

"Never has the country run out of Christmas trees," Tim O'Connor, the executive director of the NCTA, said.

Despite assurances that the supply will not be an issue, the American Christmas Tree Association warned consumers to look for their live trees early because supply chain disruptions could impact decking the halls.