Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 25, 2013

Drought is deadly for many trees

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — There are many things feeling the heat and suffering from a long and historically dry drought still plaguing much of the state and region these days. One would be trees.

In fact, the drought now entering its third consecutive year has been more than just difficult, it’s been deadly as this dry period has literally claimed millions of trees over a large area.

State forester Ray Samford, who covers the Garvin County area, says it’s unprecedented how the drought is impacting just about every kind of trees, even those not normally impacted by the dryness.

“I’ve never seen such widespread drought like this,” Samford said.

“I’ve seen the effects on trees that are normally very drought resistant,” he said. “There are many types of these trees that are now stressed because of the drought.”

How widespread is the drought — Samford estimates in the range of 300 million trees have been lost in Texas because of this ongoing drought.

“We’re estimating we’ve lost millions of trees here in Oklahoma as a result of the drought,” he said.

One example of the devastation is an estimated half of all Blackjack Oak trees in the state have been lost.

Trees are a big part of Samford’s work with the Oklahoma Forestry Services. Specifically he focuses his work on land management and urban tree problems.

This week, March 24-30, is also a good time to think about trees and his work since it’s officially being recognized as Arbor Week in Pauls Valley.

As part of the week Samford will lead a free tree pruning workshop from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26 at the Reynolds Recreation Center in Wacker Park.

“For Arbor Day the Park and Tree Board wanted to come up with something that could help people out,” Samford said, referring to Tuesday’s workshop.

“We’ll do some of it in a classroom setting,” he said. “Then we’ll go outside and demonstrate the proper techniques for pruning a tree.”

There is no need to bring any tools as all class materials will be provided, Samford added.

As for the drought, Samford said he is continuing to field questions and address concerns from all over the region about the impact on trees.

“I’m getting a lot of calls from places a little north of us on disease and insects that come in and stress the tree as the result of the drought,” Samford said.

“It’s not the drought that normally kills the tree. It’s the disease and insects that come along and weaken it during a drought.”

For those considering their landscaping options, now might not be the best time to plant trees.

“If you do plant a tree select something that’s drought resistant, but right now I’m not sure what type that would be,” he said.

There are also mandatory restrictions in place here in Pauls Valley as no outdoor watering is allowed.

Even if it was allowed Samford said in most cases it’s not a good idea to water trees since the liquid is typically absorbed by everything else around the tree.

“If someone here in Pauls Valley has a question about their trees give me a call. We do house calls, and we give each call some time.”

The number to call is 405-288-2385.