Alliance Bank in Sulphur Springs

Tree talk – by Mario Villarino


I like to talk and write about trees. Trees have this “mystery” behind them because for most of us, the life of a tree overpasses our normal concept of time. You see, in tree time, everything happens to a tree at a different speed than what we normally can relate to. Our busy life, ruled by days and hours, have a hard time trying to understand a creature than responds to the environment years after the event that caused the original response. We are so used to interact with creatures that respond “almost” instantly that anything else will question even life itself. In reality, even our life is composed of instant events and long term effects. For a tree and in our terms, everything happens long -term. Thinking about how those magnificent trees respond to their environment reminds me that the really significant events in life are those that transcend thru time. Trees are also a challenge because whatever we do to them might not be able to be evaluated in a short period of time. Because this, tree care can be a challenge to our patience. I have met many tree owners concerned about their trees, usually elderly, that are patient enough to observe the trees and compare them thru the years. The effect of hot, dry weather is showing up on some landscape trees. Dogwoods, ornamental, species of pear, maples, oaks, and other popular urban landscape trees have been especially susceptible to this summer’s hot, dry weather.

According to Dr. Frank Killebrew, Extension Specialist in Mississippi State Extension services, most weather-stressed plants typically exhibit marginal leaf scorch and “flagging foliage” during this time of the year.These symptoms are signals the plant isn’t receiving an adequate amount of moisture. Scorch appears along leaf edges and occurs when water is lost from leaves more rapidly than it can be replaced from the soil. As a result of moisture stress, the leaves become dry and scorched. Scorch is more likely to occur when hot, dry winds accompany drought periods. Defoliation sometimes accompanies drought stress. Shallow-rooted trees are especially sensitive to hot, dry weather. For example, dogwoods in home landscapes, and in woodland settings, typically show severe marginal leaf scorch and foliar wilt. Frequently, drought-affected dogwoods have upper branches with light to deep red leaves. Young trees transplanted within the past few years are also vulnerable to environmental stress and should be watered the equivalent of a one inch rain per week. As a general rule, water each week if it does not rain. Water deeply to encourage deeper root penetration. Don’t wet the foliage, and water in the afternoon to give the surface of the soil time to dry during the afternoon. Also, mulch around trees to conserve soil moisture and prevent injury to the bark from lawn mowers or string trimmers.

Trees which have had roots cut or otherwise damaged from new home construction, driveway construction, removal or addition of soil to a tree’s root system (only a few inches of soil addition or removal often causes severe root injury), soil compaction which prevents water movement into the tree’s root zone, and other factors are often responsible for root damage. Such trees with damaged roots fall into a category which places them especially at risk to weather stress, since damaged roots aren’t capable of picking up adequate amounts of soil moisture needed to satisfy the tree’s water needs. So, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on “at-risk” trees which may have been suffered recent root damage.

What type of symptoms should you look for? Trees with injured roots often exhibit larger areas of brown, dying foliage — typically on one side of the tree (often the side where the root injury occurred). This type symptom is an indication of more significant injury, and in many instances, the tree will continue to decline and die unless the early symptoms are noticed and prompt action is taken to relieve the stress. Unfortunately, the early warnings are often overlooked, and when the damage is noticed, it’s often too late to start a program of remedial action in an attempt to save the tree.  What type of remedial steps should be taken? Often tree watering and fertilization are the best course of action, but each tree situation needs to be evaluated, so contact the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443 for information guides on tree fertilization and watering practices. Don’t delay — the life you save could be your tree’s. Remember, trees in the landscape mean added property value, so keep an eye on your investment.

Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information or national origin. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating


Mario Villarino DVM, Ph.D.
Hopkins County Extension Agent for Ag and NR
1200B Houston Street
Sulphur Springs, Texas 75482

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