East Texas plants, trees still struggling after winter storm

Updated: May. 23, 2021 at 8:31 PM CDT
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JASPER COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - February’s winter storm continues to impact plants, trees, and vegetation across East Texas. Some are still struggling to produce, and it is even leading to other issues.

Three months after the Winter Storm ravaged the entire state, some plants, trees, and vegetation were affected badly, but Jasper County Extension Agent Brock Fry said there is some good news.

“Citrus crop really took a hard hit,” Fry said. “We’ve lost a lot of blueberries, and we’ve lost a lot of our citrus trees. It’s affected our palm trees and them coming back out. However, we didn’t lose everything, so that’s a good positive thing. Most of those trees are starting to have some regrowth.”

However, Fry said now there is a new concern sprouting up across Jasper County and other areas of East Texas.

“One thing I had 10 calls on after the winter storm, weeks after the winter storm, was the ambrosia beetle,” Fry said.

Fry said these beetles are invasive and not native to our area, and the beetles infect more than 100 species of trees like citrus, especially with the stress these trees have been under from the effects of the winter storm.

“I have seen where if you time it just right, you put some insecticides outside the tree, and you may be able to prevent them from getting in, but once they’re in there, they’re going to make a fungus, reproduce, and you’re going to have more and more of these beetles,” Fry said. “It’s the end of life for the tree when you see these toothpick, worm-like things come out of the tree. The protocol is to cut down the tree and remove the beetles altogether in a burn pile.”

Another type of tree that is struggling is oak, specifically live oaks and post oaks.

“Right before the storm, it was about 80 degrees in February,” said Texas A&M Forest Service Training Forester Zachary Ovelgonne. “That temperature is acute for those trees to start producing buds. They’re pulling nutrients up from the soil. They’re pulling water, sugars, starches, moving up to the tree to produce buds, and to start leafing out. When that freeze came, it put that whole process to a standstill. So that tree is now having to completely restart that process.”

Ovelgonne said before deciding about the tree, it’s best to wait and see in this case. He said adding any type of fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides could harm the tree, too. Massive flooding like we’ve seen in recent days could add another stressor to trees.

“If your tree does have some leaves on it, it might be in your best interest to wait until next Spring before making any decision,” Ovelgonne said. “The tree could potentially come back. But if they are 100 percent completely bare right now, and if they continue to be bare through mid-to-late July, more than likely that the tree has succumbed to stressors and is more than likely dead. But you’re in no rush to remove that tree. Dead trees can stand for one or two years and maybe even longer. They’re structurally sound still. You don’t have to worry about them falling or anything, so you do have some time.”

If you are concerned that trees on your property are suffering from more than just stress, the Texas A&M Forest Service recommends you contact a certified arborist. To find a certified arborist nearest you, click here.

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