MOUNTAIN CEDAR: What’s the highest count ever recorded in San Antonio?

Mountain cedar season in San Antonio lasts from December through mid-February

Mountain cedar in San Antonio. (Courtesy, Lance Gill)

The pollen from mountain cedar trees creates figurative and literal headaches every year for allergy sufferers. You may find yourself wondering how this year’s cedar season compares to years past.

What’s the highest pollen count for mountain cedar on record?

Mountain cedar season was particularly bad in 1982 and 2011 (Copyright 2023 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Shannon Syring is a Certified Pollen Collector through the National Allergy Bureau.

According to Syring — who has been providing KSAT with the pollen count for years — the highest pollen count for mountain cedar on record occurred in 1982. That’s when the cedar pollen reached a whopping 80,000 pollen grains per cubic meter of air (gpcm)!

Compare that number to the average peak of 20,000 to 32,000 gpcm, and you can clearly see why 1982 stands out.

More recently, 2011 takes the cake for the worst cedar season in the last 15 years when the pollen count topped 48,000 gpcm.

What is “mountain cedar”?

This map displays where mountain cedar (technically juniper) trees reside in Texas. Data provided by the Texas A&M Forest Service (Texas A&M Forest Service)

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 grow 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 has been washed out of the air, and cedar season comes to an end.

2022-2023 Mountain Cedar Season

Above you can see the current mountain cedar season. According to Syring, the 2022-2023 season was delayed slightly due the Christmastime hard freeze. In her opinion, “it will be a below average season based upon the numbers so far and may not be as intense due to the dry summer and the hard freeze.”

That being said, even a below-average mountain cedar season still creates major allergy issues for cedar sufferers.

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 are another option.

Keeping up with the pollen count

Every morning, on KSAT 12 &, 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?

About the Author:

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 KTEN News. When Sarah is not busy forecasting, she enjoys hanging out with her husband and cat, and playing music.