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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - November 21, 2009

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Red maple a casualty of Hurricane Ike in Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a 3 year old Drummond Red Maple, between the sidewalk and the street in front of our house, that fell during Hurricane Ike. We replanted it. I recently noticed that the bark is severely cracked. Is there any way to save this tree? It bloomed this year, but the leaves were much smaller than the other trees on the same street. We've never seen such severe cracking on this tree. What should we do? Do we need to fertilize it or is it a lost cause? I'd love to send photos if at all possible.

ANSWER:

If you would like to send us photos, go to our Plant Identification page and get instructions for sending us pictures. Acer rubrum var. drummondii (Drummond's maple) is shown in this  USDA Plant Profile with  Houston a little out of native area of the Drummond red maple in Texas, but that has little to do with whether or not the plant survived a hurricane.

We have had a number of questions from people who lost trees to Hurricane Ike. The previous answer that comes the closest to yours concerned a live oak, but the situation was very similar.  Even with pictures, we would probably not be able to make a good diagnosis of your tree's problems, except "hurricane damage," which you already know. To replant a tree that has been violently uprooted is almost always unsuccessful. So much damage is done to the tiny little rootlets that draw water and nutrients from the soil, the tree may struggle on for a while, as yours has, but the outlook is not good. And certainly, fertilizing is the wrong thing to do; you should never fertilize a tree under stress, as yours surely is. 

We would suggest you see this article from the Texas Forest Service Hurricane Ike Response and Recovery. Then go to their Home Page where you will find links to, among others, "Landowners." This Home Page lists contact information, including e-mail. We don't know exactly the extent to which they can help you, but it certainly looks like a good place to start. 


 

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