By Chelsea Dorward
As everyone recovers from the winter storm you might have noticed the oak trees in our county are looking brown and dropping leaves. They too were impacted by the 70-degree temperature swings, extreme cold and moisture. The oaks in our county should recover from this in the coming months, BUT the trees probably won’t look their best this year. The trees took the full brunt of the storm, due to water inside of them that froze, and then thawed. Add to this that some of our oaks had already started shedding their leaves for the new spring growth because we had a warmer December and January. All this said our oaks may look a little thinner this year, but they should recover.
For trees damaged during the storm the Texas Forestry Service put out information on what you should (and shouldn’t) do to clean up the damage while also protecting them from oak wilt:
While painting fresh wounds on oak trees is important to prevent the spread of oak wilt, wounds that were caused by the ice storm are no longer fresh. In cold conditions, trees quickly stop exuding sap and sap-feeding beetles are not active, so it is unlikely that oak wilt will spread as a result of an initial ice storm event.
Prune safely within your ability and DO NOT remove limbs on or near power lines. For work you cannot complete safely or that is beyond your ability, find a Certified Arborist.
Be sure to immediately paint any new wounds on oak trees that are created during cleanup using wound dressing or latex paint. Immediately means make one cut then paint it before making the next cut. Clean all pruning tools with a 10% bleach solution or Lysol™ before pruning a different tree. Additional cosmetic pruning of oaks should be delayed until summer, once the threat of oak wilt spread has diminished. Avoid pruning oaks February through June! Any trees that are not oaks can be pruned at any time and painting the wounds is not necessary.
When disposing of debris, burning should be delayed until spring green-up when wildfire danger is reduced. If debris must be disposed of immediately, a chipper is recommended. For more information, click here.
Most live oaks, and many other trees that currently have leaves, suffered freeze damage. However, it is difficult to determine the true extent of this damage until after spring green-up. Trees are quite resilient, and the damage may not be as bad is it initially seems. So be patient, prune selectively and be sure to paint any fresh wounds on all oak trees.