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Dallas Morning News - April 1, 2021

Freeze Damage – Good and Bad News


My bay tree was about 35 years old. It had survived some really cold weather through the years but February's zero degrees did it in. Good news is that it is sprouting from the base and we won't miss a season of fragrant bay leaves. I'll trim off all but two or three shoots.


My 35 year old bay was lost to the freeze but shoots are emerging from the stump


Most major trees around north Texas made it fairly well (with some exceptions) but many shrubs are toast – Indian hawthorn, pittosporum, Japanese and wax ligustrum, Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum sp.) and agaves are pretty much wiped out. I've only seen one shade tree so far that was completely killed - lacebark elm with the bark completely separated from the trunk. They aren't durable enough anyway, so I wouldn't re-plant any. Hopefully we won't see more of this on other tree types.


One of the rarest things I've seen is brown pine trees, some dead – including the tough Italian stone pines. Some of these trees will re-leaf, some won't. Good news here is that the state champion just east of Love Field is green and healthy looking.


Largest Italian stone pine in Dallas - not damaged by the freeze. Smaller ones didn't fare so well

Many pines, including east Texas natives are showing rare freeze damage



Palm trees appear to have more damage than expected. A high percentage are badly injured and many are completely dead – especially fan palms. Even some of the previously indestructible needle palms look bad. Warm weather before the record lows was as much the culprit as the temperature. General manager Adrian Muehlstein at Southwest Nursery, reported to me that their entire stock of needle palms was left out during the freeze and there's no apparent damage.


Perennials such as salvias, turk's cap, coral bells, etc., turf and groundcovers such as Asian jasmine, English ivy, Persian ivy, and monkey grasses all seem to have escaped fatal damage and even serious injury. The snow cover probably helped by providing insulation. Most vines are top killed and will be coming back from the ground.


Buckeyes in my garden have a range of conditions. One scarlet buckeye died to the ground but is re-growing. The other scarlet buckeye is fully leafed out and starting to bloom. Mexican buckeyes are in full boom and unhurt. Ohio buckeye is the most fully leafed out (those northerners are tough) but the Texas white buckeye only has swollen buds so far.


Lacebark elm death from the freeze--don't replant this species


Folks in the plant industry agree that inconsistency is the hallmark of this winter damage event. The same plant in a garden can range from being unscathed to dead. Micro-environments and/or different sugars and minerals in the sap of the plants could be an explanation – but maybe not.


General guide on handling the brown plants ranges from patience and wait, all the way to bite the bullet and replant. Some plants that look dead could still leaf out as late as June, but those that already have withered, dry, brittle twigs and branches should be removed and replaced.





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