Texas Primer: Cedar Fever

Face it. It’s part of being Texan. The trees are here to stay, and so is the allergy.

The signs are unmistakable: The eyes burn and turn fiery red; the nose runs; the insides of the ears itch. Incessant sneezing—up to two or three hundred times a day—leaves some victims exhausted. On top of this, an insidious malaise sets in, making it hard to do anything but stare vacantly at the wall, while at the same time a nagging little voice says, “Get up. It’s just an allergy.”

But cedar fever is not just any allergy. It’s a scourge, a plague that smites the just and the unjust who have the misfortune to live anywhere in a broad strip of Central Texas that stretches from the Red River to the Rio Grande. The progenitor of all this misery is a medium-sized, frankly undistinguished tree with sinewy limbs covered in shaggy bark that vaguely resembles orangutan fur. Despite its common name, the mountain cedar is actually a juniper ( Juniperus ashei). Every year around December, we blunder into the midst of the cedar’s mating ritual. It begins with the appearance of the male cones—embarrassingly small, amber-colored structures no larger than a grain of rice. In good years (or bad, depending on your viewpoint) they blanket the tops of the trees, turning them an aggressive tawny orange. When the wind rises, great gritty clouds of the pollen drift aloft, making the woods look like they are aflame. This airborne milt can waft for miles until it runs into


More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...