Leyland Cypress
6:00 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Needle Blight Affecting Georgia Christmas Trees

Some Georgia Christmas tree farmers are fretting because they have fewer of their best-selling trees to sell this year.

This photo shows early signs of needle blight.
Credit North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension

An audio version of this story

The reason is needle blight. It affects Leyland cypress trees, one of the most popular species for Christmas trees. Needle blight turns the needles brown, and then they just fall off.

Jim Butler, who owns Homestead Christmas Tree Farm in Hampton, about 25 miles south of Atlanta, says, “It’s been going on now for quite a few years, and we’ve tried many things to control it. It’ll go away on its own, and anytime we have a wet summer it seems to come back.”

Butler is lucky because only a few of his trees got hit this year, but he says some cypress stands in Georgia are completely brown. “It basically makes the tree un-sellable that year. But it doesn’t kill the tree," says Butler.

This photo shows more advanced needle blight infestation.
Credit North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension

"It will come back, and the next year, it may be fine.”

Leyland cypress is not the only popular Christmas tree species suffering this year. Frasier firs growers are having a problem with root rot. Very few of those trees are grown in Georgia, but you may have a bit of trouble finding them at your local tree lot, because most Georgia Christmas tree sellers import their firs from North Carolina.