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Water mold killing off popular Christmas trees

7:54 AM, Dec 4, 2013   |    comments
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MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- It might soon cost you more to deck the halls.
This year, a water mold is attacking and in some cases killing off a popular Christmas tree.

The Fraser Fir is native to mountainous regions like North Carolina and Oregon.

But at some tree farms, it is not exactly the most wonderful time of year.

The firs are turning from green to brown because of a water mold called phytophtora.

Heavy rains during the growing season have caused the mold to flourish and spread quickly.

It's a threat because it kills the tree's root system, which keeps water from being absorbed.

Jeff Pollard is a North Carolina-based Christmas tree farmer, who told NBC News he might lose a quarter of his crop.

"Didn't expect it to be quite this severe this fast," he said.
The Christmas tree industry stands to lose several million dollars because of the loss in crop.

"It is a major problem for Christmas tree growers. And because they lose money on the trees that become sick and die, those costs in some way are passed on to the consumers," said NC State University Forestry and Environmental Resources professor John Frampton to NBC News.

Researchers are trying to genetically modify Fraser Firs so they can withstand the mold.

Other Christmas tree farmers are planting trees that are resistant, like Turkish Firs.

For people on the First Coast, one Clay County farmer said there is not much you should worry about.

Michael Songer is president of the Florida Christmas Tree Association and owner of Songer's Christmas Tree Farm in Middleburg.

He said since the Fraser Fir is not native to the South, then the water mold should not be an issue.

Still, the fir is sold in both Florida and Georgia and might already be up in some homes.

But Songer said not to worry.

"Some are imported in, but it shouldn't be any risk because they are severed from their roots," he said.

Pollard, meanwhile, told NBC News he is hopeful his trees make a comeback soon.

He said, "To be a Christmas tree grower you've got to be a real optimist."

First Coast News

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