Achoo! Mountain cedar season begins in San Antonio

Dreaded “cedar fever” makes its return to South Central Texas

Mountain cedar season begins in December, peaks in January, and ends around Valentine's Day (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – Yep, it’s true: Tuesday saw our first recording of mountain cedar in the pollen count this season.

So perhaps your eyes are feeling a bit itchy? Maybe your throat is sore? Sinuses stuffed up?

No matter how you feel it, many of us will battle through mountain cedar season -- which runs from December through February every year.

What is “mountain cedar”?

Technically, mountain cedar trees aren’t cedar trees at all! The plant we know as “mountain cedar” is actually ashe juniper (juniperus ashei).

Around Texas, ashe juniper trees mainly reside in the Hill Country, with male trees pollinating late in the year. By December, wind can easily pick up the tree pollen, spreading the irritating pollen grains across South Central Texas. By Valentine’s Day, most of the tree pollen has blown from the trees or is washed out of the air, and cedar season comes to an end.

It’s important to note that although ashe juniper cause literal and figurative headaches for millions of Texans, the trees are still very beneficial to our local ecosystem. Female mountain cedar trees produce berries, which feed many different birds and other wildlife.

Mountain "cedar" trees are actually ashe juniper trees.

What causes a high cedar count?

Because pollen grains are so light, they are easily transported by the wind. Cold fronts are very common between December and February, when winds pick up from the north. That means that anytime a cold front moves across the Hill Country into San Antonio, you can expect the mountain cedar count to become elevated.

Cold fronts kick up mountain cedar pollen in the Hill Country and transport it to San Antonio. (KSAT 12)

How to treat a mountain cedar allergy

Because everyone reacts differently to a mountain cedar allergy, most allergists suggest using many different treatments. Try consistently taking an allergy pill or using a nasal spray. Allergy drops are also helpful for many. When all else fails, allergy shots from a specialist is another option.

Keeping up with the pollen count

Every morning, on KSAT 12 & KSAT.com, Your Weather Authority reports the pollen count. To understand more about the pollen count process, check out this nifty article: How does the pollen count for San Antonio work?

We also send a push notification to your phone through our Weather Authority App daily. For a video explaining mountain cedar pollen that you can share with your friends, check out Kaiti Blake’s explanation below:

Kaiti Blake explains where mountain cedar comes from and why it can be so bad this time of year.

About the Authors:

Sarah Spivey is a San Antonio native who grew up watching KSAT. She has been a proud member of the KSAT Weather Authority Team since 2017. Sarah is a Clark High School and Texas A&M University graduate. She previously worked at KETN News. When Sarah is not busy forecasting, she enjoys hanging out with her husband and cat, and playing music.

Kaiti Blake is a child weather-geek-turned-meteorologist. A member of the KSAT Weather Authority, Kaiti is a co-host of the Whatever the Weather video podcast. After graduating from Texas Tech University, Kaiti worked at WJTV 12 in Jackson, Mississippi and KTAB in Abilene.