Inspect trees for damage

Mother Nature has dealt a cruel hand to our landscapes.

Trees, in particular, suffered from drought, high heat and extreme cold weather in the past few years.

Some died, while others barely held on to life.

It has been a tough time to be a tree.

With the advent of spring, trees should be inspected for damage. Quick action could save trees. However, sometimes nothing can be done.

When a tree is lost, always replant with drought- and heat-tolerant species. Native and well-adapted plants are best suited to survive.

Before taking any action, however, you should know the effects of heat and drought on plants.

According to Certified Arborist and Master Naturalist Steve Houser, lack of rain on non-irrigated sites where many trees reside causes the loss of small feeder roots in the upper levels of soil. Then as drought conditions continue, the plant roots residing in deeper soil levels are lost.

Tree issues caused by heat and drought include:

Evaporation at the surface causes soils to lose moisture. As soils dry, they shrink. Shrinking soils heave and crack, causing physical injury to plant root systems.

Susceptibility to damage varies by species. The leaves of affected plants first turn brown beginning at the edges. Later, the browning moves toward the center of the leaves, making the foliage appear scorched. In some species, there is a sudden onset of brown leaves. It may take years for the full effects of drought to be apparent in larger plants. After having suffered from years of drought, a healthy looking tree may die suddenly.

If disease or pests exist on any given site before drought conditions begin, the plants at that site are more likely to be seriously affected. Insects and pathogens are opportunistic and wreak havoc on plants stressed due to extended heat and drought. In the short term, trees have energy reserves that help them to resist or overcome pest/disease damage, but trees will fail if poor conditions continue.

Extreme soil temperatures slow biological function. Heat damage is likely to occur when night temperatures stay above 85 degrees for prolonged times. Watering cannot protect plants from this type of heat damage.

Increased air temperatures add to air pollution, which also affects plant health.

Regardless of the soil moisture levels, extended daytime periods of 95 degrees and above will slow the biological functions of plants, which protects plants by reducing the water lost through transpiration. Unfortunately, this dormancy halts photosynthesis, reducing the amount of food that can be stored by the plant.

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.