The Great Texas Freeze

October 23, 2023
Sunny Crutchfield

ISA Certified Arborist Wes Rivers sits down with Kimberlee Peterson to discuss the ‘great Texas freeze’. In recent years, we have witnessed a series of extreme weather events that have taken a toll on our trees. From severe winter storms to prolonged periods of drought and heavy rain, these conditions have led to significant environmental stressors for tree species across the board. As a result, it is crucial for us to understand the signs and symptoms of tree stress and take preventive measures to minimize damage.

Effects of Extreme Weather

The fluctuating temperatures in 2021, from freezing nights to high 70s and 80s within weeks, have caused considerable damage to trees. Frost cracks and dead tips on canopies are common sights as branches struggle to recover from the freeze damage. Additionally, prolonged drought periods have led to leaf deformations and wood-boring insects infesting stressed trees. Impact on Oak Trees: Oak wilt is often mistaken for other stress-related symptoms caused by extreme weather conditions. While red oaks and live oaks are more susceptible to oak wilt, post oaks exhibit better resistance. However, even post oaks are now showing signs of hypoxilin due to the cumulative effects of weather extremes.

Urgent Need for Tree Stress Reduction

The loss of post oaks in urban settings is concerning as they provide aesthetic appeal but lack regeneration options. To minimize stress on trees like post oaks, certain practices can be adopted: 1. Proper Pruning: Implementing appropriate pruning times and techniques reduces stress on trees. 2. Adequate Watering: During dry spells or extended periods without rain, ensure trees receive water near the canopy drip line rather than directly at the trunk. 3. Mulching: A layer (up to three inches) of mulch around trees can insulate soil and protect root systems during extreme temperatures. 4. Nutrient Management: In urban settings with nutrient-depleted soils due to grass planting and irrigation, controlled doses of organic fertilizer can improve tree health and resistance to stress.

Understanding Genetic Variability

Different tree species exhibit varying responses to extreme weather events due to genetic variability. Trees breaking dormancy earlier are more prone to injury, whereas those that break dormancy later tend to fare better. Magnolias, despite being evergreen, demonstrated surprising resilience during the freeze compared to post oaks. The Importance of Holistic Care: It is essential to consider the entire ecosystem when addressing tree stress caused by extreme weather. Urban areas require different care compared to woodlots due to varying soil conditions and environmental factors. Soil amendments like fulvics, humates, and liquid biochar can enhance soil quality while providing necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

Overcoming Unpredictable Weather Patterns

While preparing for unprecedented freeze events like the one in 2021 may be challenging, proactive steps such as mulching can help insulate soil and protect surface roots from damage. By providing trees with optimal conditions through proper care practices, we can enable them to recover from stressful periods more effectively.

In Conclusion, extreme weather events have had a significant impact on our trees in recent years. Understanding the signs and symptoms of stress caused by these conditions is crucial for prompt intervention. By implementing practices such as proper pruning techniques, appropriate watering methods, mulching, and controlled nutrient management, we can reduce stress on trees and promote their long-term health in urban environments. While it may not be possible to prevent all damage from unpredictable weather patterns, proactive measures will go a long way in ensuring tree longevity and enhancing the

Discover more reasons why working with an arborist can safeguard the future of your trees!

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