Area trees took quite a beating from hail and high winds as deadly tornadoes ripped across Texas May 15.
The clean-up process began almost immediately. Broken limbs were gathered, piled in heaps and left curbside. As unfortunate as it was to incur this damage – the far greater loss was lives.
Normalcy often begins with repairs, and many trees are now in dire need of tending. Tree injuries that expose the wood or kill the bark allow insects or disease organisms to attack. Proper treatment protects trees and promotes faster healing.
Trees do not heal similarly to humans. They react by closing the wound and isolating (compartmentalizing) injured tissue from surrounding tissue. During compartmentalization, contents from injured cells leak onto the uninjured surface, oxidize and form a barrier to prevent infection. Over time, new tissue grows over the injured tissue closing the wound. Tree owners can assist this natural process to speed healing.
If bark has been crushed or stripped from the trunk of a tree, remove the injured bark by cutting it away. Remove isolated scraps from the wound area. To promote fast healing, shape the edge of the wound as nearly as possible to an elongated oval. If this shape is difficult to acquire, trim the wound so that its top and bottom edges come to a point, even if the wound must be slightly enlarged. Remove all the splintered wood, and smooth the surface of the exposed area. Use a chisel or similar tool.
Injuries can result in the formation of cavities or hollows within the main trunk or a large branch. Do not fill these cavities. If water does not drain easily from a cavity, you may trim the cavity opening to promote flow. Also, you may drill weep holes into the bottom of the cavity. Keep the cavity free of debris, such as leaves.
Trees that have lost leaves to hail will quickly grow new foliage. No assistance is needed. If a tree is struck by lightning, damage may be internal. If so, it is impossible to determine whether the struck tree will live or die. Remove shattered parts and damaged limbs and then smooth and paint exposed wood. Wait and watch for signs of life.
Broken trunks, split crotches or cracked limbs are sometimes mended by moving the damaged part to its original position and securing it permanently with screws, rods or cables. Remove all broken branches and reshape injured trees as much as possible. Proper pruning cuts are made at the point (node) at which one branch or twig attaches to another. Make cuts so that only branch tissue is removed and stem tissue is not damaged. Visit the AgriLife Extension office or website to obtain more information on proper pruning.
For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener or visit the website at hoodcountymastergardeners.org.