Texas trees have been devastated during the drought this year. The Forest Service estimates as many as five hundred million trees have died during the drought. That is close to ten percent of the trees in Texas.
Worse, right now it is difficult to tell whether a tree is dormant or dead. It won’t be until February, when trees start to leaf out, when you can determine with any certainty whether a tree is a casualty of the drought. Trees that do survive may still succumb to stress or the continuing drought in the spring.
One thing you can do to help fruit trees and nut trees survive this spring, in addition to supplemental watering, is heavy thinning of the fruits or nuts. The less energy the tree has to use to produce fruit, the more it has to pour toward surviving the drought.
If the worst happens and a tree dies, evaluate the potential for damage if it falls. If a house or other structure would be damaged, or a walkway impacted, the tree will have to be removed. If, however, the tree will do little damage if it falls, consider leaving it. Woodpeckers and a number of other bird species make use of dead trees, or snags, to nest in. A snag density of one per acre is considered ideal.
When considering replacement trees, pick trees that will do well in drought conditions. Plant trees zoned for one zone warmer than you would usually consider to accommodate the warming of the climate. For example, if you live in zone 7b, consider trees ideal for zone 8a, as they would be more able to take the drought. Be sure to provide supplemental water for the first year after planting, and during severe drought no matter how old the tree is.
The loss of ten percent of our trees is a disaster. Work to mitigate this in your yard by planting replacement trees, choosing tree species carefully, and providing supplemental water to surviving trees until the drought is over.
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