This Family Has Been Creating Beautiful Ice Trees Every Christmas, for Over 60 Years

Every year since 1961, the Veal family has been celebrating Christmas by creating their now-traditional giant ice tree on their property in Indianapolis, Indiana. It has become known as the Veal Ice Tree and is considered a seasonal tourist attraction.

If you’ve had enough of traditional Christmas trees and you’re looking for something more original, you’re going to love the Veal Ice Tree. It looks nothing like a tree, in fact no living trees have ever been used in the creation of this magnificent ice sculpture, but it became known as the ice tree a long time ago, and the name stuck. It’s actually an ice-sculpture made by attaching water hoses to a wooden frame, turning the water on on freezing nights, and letting the weather mold the ice-sculpture into existence. The Veal Ice Tree goes up every year, or almost every year, and it always gets a lot of attention from locals.

Photo: Veal Ice Tree/Facebook

It all started in the winter of 1961, when Vierl G. Veal, the original Ice Tree creator, was spraying a fine mist of water on the hill south of his house on Mimosa Lane, in Indianapolis, to make an ice slide on to his pond. During the night, a strong wind blew the spray onto some honeysuckle bushes and turned them into frozen sculptures. He and his wife Mabel liked the result so much that they decided to replicate the effect on a grander scale. And that’s how the first Veal Ice Tree was created.

In the first few years, live bushes on the south side of the Veal house were used as a frame for the ice sculpture, but in 1965 the location of the tree was changed and a wooden frame replaced the live plants. The official Veal Ice Tree website states that the bushes used initially were never hurt by the ice either.

Vierl passed away in the 1970s, but by that point the ice tree had become a popular local attraction, and his family decided to carry on the tradition. They have put up the “tree” every year when the weather allowed it, and they plan to continue doing so for a long time.

The Veal Ice Tree starts off as a frame made with scrap lumber and binder twine, to which fresh cut brush gathered from field fence-rows are added. Garden hoses with ordinary nozzles are tied to the frame, and as soon as the temperature drops below freezing for five straight days, the water is turned on. The ideal temperatures to grow the Ice Tree are between 29° and 5° Fahrenheit, a range usually registered in the month of January.

The water for the Veal Ice Tree is pumped from the family’s pond. Depending on weather condition and the time that Vierl Veal descendants have to work on the tree, it can grow to around 40 feet. In 2014, it towered at an estimated 79-80 feet, but on average, it is between 35 and 40 feet high.

To make the Ice Tree even more of an attention-grabber, the Veals mix powdered food coloring dye with water and spray the dye onto the Ice Tree with a garden sprayer.


There’s no charge to go look at the tree, in fact the Veal family invites people to come by and admire their creation. It’s become somewhat of an Indianapolis attraction, and the Veals continue to create the ice tree every year both because it’s fun, and as a way to honor its original creator.