The Great Texas Freeze of 2021 is Still Having an Impact on Trees. Here’s The Science Behind It.

The Great Texas Freeze of 2021 had varied negative consequences on the region, from actual fatalities, to damage to infrastructure and utilities. Among the consequences is one that’s not only still being felt, but often missed in tackling the lingering effects of weather anomalies: The impact on Texas’ trees. For example, East Texas pine trees face a lingering threat from the Great Texas Freeze of 2021 in the form of Ips engraver beetles. The severely stressed trees, weakened by the freeze, are now vulnerable to these beetles that attack both healthy and stressed pines.

In order to better understand the complex interplay between environmental factors and tree health, it’s important to recognize that trees are influenced by genetic predispositions and regional differences. The damage from the freeze on trees varied among tree species and individual trees, with some being more susceptible to harm due to breaking dormancy early, and trees from different regions, such as North Carolina and Louisiana, can exhibit unique responses to the same stressors. Professionals at the Treenewal Team, including VP of Operations Wesley Rivers, Southern Botanical Pro David Brantley, and Cleanscapes Pro James Theiss, delve deep into the impacts of the recent freeze on trees, touching on genetic predispositions, regional differences, and the need for proper care.

Treenewal Team’s Thoughts:

“But the freeze was devastating to a lot of them. A lot of them looked like nothing happened, and a lot of them got completely killed. And I think the variability there is due to genetic differences. Trees that were breaking dormancy early were absorbing water, and water crystallizes and freezes inside the vascular tissue and ruptures vessels and breaks cell walls, and just devastates the interior of the plant. So, some trees that just were genetically predisposed to be early got really hurt, and the timing of the freeze was a big problem because it was late. By mid-February, we’re normally warming up around here; trees had been exposed to 70-plus-degree weather the week before. The days are getting longer. All these things are triggering these trees to start getting active.” – Wesley Rivers, VP of Operations, TreeNewal

“There are live oak trees that spanned from Big Bend all the way up through the United States, and each genetic in that seed, in that tree, has a different time when it breaks bud, has a different way it responds to things like that. So if we’re getting trees from North Carolina, it’s a different tree than you’re getting from Louisiana even though it is a live oak…” – David Brantley, Southern Botanical, TreeNewal

“He’s saying about the freeze damage. You don’t want to strap the bark on, we’ve seen that…. Bark that’s broken and separating, it’s going to fall off. A lot of is popping off right now in trees that people didn’t even know what happened. And the thing around that, remember that trees make their own root soil. So just like Wes was talking, the ones in residential areas are not getting any leaf litter. That leaf litter is supposed to be under the tree, it degrades to go back into the soil, feeds the tree. But we clean all of that up. We don’t give the trees any substance, they just have to use what’s available in the soil that we feed them.” – James Theiss, Cleanscapes, TreeNewal

Article written by Azam Saghir.

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