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Agriculture Today

Did your tree survive the drought?

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April 11, 2012 | 4,347 views | Post a comment

COLLEGE STATION -- Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to take a look at your trees -- and if you don’t see any green, it may be time to make some hard decisions.

Trees across the state began to wilt last summer as the Lone Star State underwent one of the worst droughts in recorded history, according to a April 3 Texas Forest Service press release. Some trees went into early dormancy, dropping their leaves and branches in a desperate act of self-preservation. Others died.

At the time, it was difficult -- even for tree experts -- to tell the difference between dormant and dead. But now that spring is here and many trees are flourishing with the recent rains, the distinction is much easier to make.

“Green is good,” Texas Forest Service Urban Forestry Manager John Giedraitis said. “If all the trees around you are green and your tree is still bare and leafless, it’s probably not going to make a comeback.”

Surviving shade trees -- oaks, elms, and other hardwood trees are common examples -- will have shed all or most of last year’s leaves and will be breaking buds, flowering, and sprouting new, green leaves. Pecan, hickory, ash, and mesquite trees are often the last to sprout new leaves, but even these species should be turning green within the next couple of weeks.

Dead shade trees won’t have any new growth. Though they may still have dead, brown leaves, there won’t be any green leaves in the crown or at the ends of the branches, which will make them stand out when compared with neighboring, living trees.

These trees also may have patches of bark that have fallen off the trunk and exposed a brown or gray fungus underneath. This fungus -- known as hypoxylon canker -- is common on dead or dying post oaks and water oaks.

Dead pine and cedar trees -- as well as other needle-bearing conifer trees -- will be covered in red or brown needles. Once all or most of the needles turn from green to red, the tree can’t recover.

If you have a dead tree that is close to a house or other structure on which it might fall, it is a safety concern and removal should be considered. If you‘re not sure if your tree is dead, check out our Facebook photo album to see examples or contact a certified arborist.

Last year, Texas Forest Service tree experts estimated as many as 500 million rural forest trees and another 5.6 million urban shade trees had died from the drought. Foresters currently are studying aerial imagery to refine the number of trees killed by drought. Those results are expected later this year.

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