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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 - September 24, 2011

From: San Marcos, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Dying trees in San Marcos, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live on 11 acres in San Marcos and cannot water at all during this drought. All of my oaks and mountain laurels are turning brown. Does this mean they are all dying? Will they come back in the spring at all?

ANSWER:

The news is NOT good.   Trees all over Central Texas are dying—large trees, small trees and shrubs.  Around my neighborhood in Austin large red oaks and other trees are turning brown in lawns that have received at least a little watering—but, obviously not enough water.  The extended drought combined with the extreme temperatures this summer have greatly reduced the water tables and plants aren't able to extract any water from the parched land.   So, unless it begins raining soon and we receive enough rain to begin to replenish the underground water tables, I am afraid many trees will die.  This is not to say you should start cutting down your trees.  Deciduous trees can react to drought stress by losing their leaves early and becoming dormant.   If we do receive adequate rainfall soon, they could rejuvenate in the spring.  If they do survive and produce leaves in the spring, you need to be aware that one of the side effects of the drought is that the stress will make the trees more susceptile to disease and insect attack.  Please see the article from the "Continuing Severe Drought Conditions will Seriously Harm Trees" from the Texas Forest Service.  You can also read an excellent explanation from the University of Massachusetts Extension Service of how water is acquired and lost by trees and how the lack of water affects all aspect of the trees growth and health.  I do hope that at least some of your trees make it through the drought.

 

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