Lost Pines Recovery
What began as a philanthropic project spearheaded by an ambitious graduate student has since blossomed into an effort to produce 6 million trees by 2017 — 700,000 of those coming directly from the Wildflower Center. The overarching purpose is to replenish the Lost Pines area of Bastrop County, which was devastated by wildfires in 2011.
The fires burned 34,000 acres, destroying homes and more than a million of the area’s distinct loblolly pines (Pinus taeda). One of the meanings of the word loblolly is mud puddle, and these pines are thought to thrive in the Bastrop area east of Austin due to a clay layer that settled beneath sand that may have initially drifted to the area from the Colorado River.
Vlad Codrea, a self-proclaimed tree enthusiast and biology grad student at The University of Texas at Austin, was inspired to help residents restore their native landscapes after the fire and knew they’d need trees to do it. Thanks to a $54,000 grant from the university’s Green Fee program (which rewards students for environmental service-related projects) and a little help from the Wildflower Center, he began a project that grew more than 70,000 native tree saplings. In addition to thousands of loblollies, the sapling supply included bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia), Montezuma bald cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) and American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). Codrea’s trees were distributed to residents through community events and distribution facilitated with the help of local non-profit TreeFolks.
By 2013, the Center was involved in growing more than 10 times that many loblollies (the aforementioned 700,000) as a contractor for the Texas A&M Forest Service. Along with two other contractors, the Center will help regenerate public and private lands in the Lost Pines area as a participant in the Bastrop County Community Reforestation Program, a five-year effort funded by the Arbor Day Foundation. The combined goal is to provide the fire-damaged area with 6 million trees.