'It's tough to take:' Root rot kills 'choose and cut' Christmas trees at Mequon nursery

MEQUON -- On Wednesday, Nov. 20, FOX6 News caught up with a Mequon Christmas tree farmer in need of a Christmas miracle. At Trees for Less Nursery, people line up for pre-cut trees, and also for "choose and cuts," where you can chop down your own -- lines expected to be much shorter in 2019.

"It takes five to eight years to grow a tree into Christmas tree size," said Rick O'Malley, owner.

Rick O'Malley

Ahead of opening weekend for Christmas tree sales, the coal came early at Trees for Less Nursery.

"You lose trees every year, but you don't lose 250 of prime Christmas trees," said O'Malley. "It's tough to take, but what do you do?"

O'Malley said officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources delivered some bad news regarding his balsam firs.

"Beautiful balsam fir that end up getting toasted," said O'Malley.

The balsam firs that are part of his "choose and cut" section suffered root rot, killing those trees that take years to grow.

"We had about 250 beautiful balsam firs that just died, so we had to cut them out and put them in a big burn pile, and it's our loss," said O'Malley.

Experts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee said the wet weather, soil, and growing location could've all been factors.

"All the sudden, I'll see a tree starting not to look good, and before you know it, it's all rust," said O'Malley.

Despite the loss, O'Malley was trying to stay positive.

"This is my slice of heaven, that's for sure," said O'Malley. "Mother Nature always wins, and it's just the circumstances, and I have to deal with it, so I'm dealing with it."

UWM experts said this can affect multiple types of Christmas trees, and there are a lot of factors that can cause root rot.

O'Malley said he has plenty of pre-cut trees available, and said his "choose and cut" trees are worth the wait.