Temporary fences made of metal wire, yellow plastic tape and padlocks guard hundreds of Christmas trees at the Redoubt soccer complex on Bonny Oaks Drive.
Signs from the United States Department of Agriculture hang from the tape stating: "Warning quarantine ... sealed under the authority of law."
Gene Hyde, city forester for the city of Chattanooga, said the trees were quarantined as a precaution against a non-native pest known as the gypsy moth. It was not immediately clear who had been selling the trees at Redoubt.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, gypsy moths are one of North America's most devastating forest pests. The moths commonly feed on the foliage of hundreds of species of plants in North America, and are found across most of the lower 48 United States, with the highest concentration being found in the southern Appalachian Mountains, the Ozark Mountains and in the northern Lake States.
Hyde referred to the gypsy moths as "very hungry, hungry caterpillars [that] do a lot of deforestation."
To date, only a few of the pests have been detected in Chattanooga, not enough to create concern, Hyde said, but he has been dreading the day they show up here in force.
Gray Haun, plant certification administrator for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, referred to the quarantine as "a regulatory incident."
He said there is no reason to believe the trees are infested with gypsy moths, but since the nursery where the trees came from in Pennsylvania does not have the proper compliance agreement, the trees were quarantined as a precaution -- not because the pest was detected.
Haun said the quarantined trees will be burned on Friday, and people who bought trees from that batch should not be concerned, as the gypsy moths are "literally a forest pest" and do not live indoors.
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6592.