East Texas now noticing freeze damage on forest trees

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Lee Miller
Lee Miller was born in Denison, TX and grew up in East Texas with his family. He studied music education at Stephen F. Austin State University taking a job in television on his last day of student teaching. Lee also provides business authoritative expertise to the broadcast industry as a consultant. Presently he is CEO of MSG Resources LLC, which specializes in consulting within broadcast best practices, distribution technologies and media strategy mastery. - - - - - Lee Miller is a well-known veteran of the broadcast media industry with particular experience in leading for-profit and non-profit broadcasting organizations. His career began in Lufkin, Texas in the early 80’s where he progressed from studio operations to creative services and network management. Mr. Miller has since received various professional designations and memberships such as Society of Broadcast Engineers accredited frequency coordinator, The Energy Professionals Association Certified Energy Consultant, and National Religious Broadcasters Television Committee & past Chair. Lee also serves as the Executive Director of the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance, is a member of the Advanced Television Systems Committee and is proud to be part of Texas Association of Broadcasters Golden Mic Club, highlighting extraordinary careers in broadcasting. Continued engagement with his community is at the core of his business practices serving on the board of the Salvation Army and as keyboardist for the contemporary worship band at Harmony Hill Baptist Church. Lee lives near Lufkin Texas on one of his family’s tree farms located in the Texas Forest Country region north of Houston. He is married to Kenla and has two grown children, Joshua, COO of MSGPR Ltd Co and Morgan, a Critical Care ICU RN.

LUFKIN, Texas – Over a week after severe winter weather in East Texas, many landowners may just now be seeing signs of freeze damage to forest trees with concern that trees may not make it.

“The most common sign of freeze damage on trees is the turning of needles and leaves from a dark green to a strange reddish-gray color,” said Eric Taylor, Texas A&M Forest Service Silviculturist. “Other than the strange color, the crowns of these trees seem to be fully intact and show minimal breakage from ice loads.”

Typically ice loads during winter storms bring physical damage to our trees. February’s storm was a different story though. Only rarely, in confined areas, were mechanical breakage or severe bending of forest trees found. Texas A&M Forest Service conducted an aerial timber assessment survey last week over 509,000 acres in East Texas and found no significant damage to the timber resource.

The extreme cold triggered a normal physiological response in the trees of East Texas. Needles and leaves of trees showing signs of freeze damage were impaired likely from the formation of ice crystals inside the leaf cells causing the cell’s walls to rupture. However, native trees are adapted to this and responded by shutting off (abscising) leaves (needles) that were no longer functioning causing a discoloration of leaves. Fortunately, trees are resilient and have the ability to leaf out again when the initial growth is damaged or destroyed.

Landowners may see freeze damage symptoms on some trees, but not all. Tree species differ when it comes to freeze tolerance as some can tolerate extreme cold better than others.

With pine species, longleaf and slash seem to have less tolerance for freeze than loblolly. Shortleaf pine is more resistant to freezing temperatures and seems to be much less affected than the other pine species.

In addition, trees along the forest edge and/or those trees that are taller than surrounding trees, with their crowns fully exposed, may also experience freeze damage to a greater extent than those with crowns somewhat protected by other trees. Most trees in East Texas will survive the freeze damage though.

“This is another example of how it pays to proactively manage forests,” said Taylor. “There will likely be some losses, but if the tree was relatively healthy before the freeze, it should have enough available, stored carbohydrates (food) to set new buds and form new leaves (needles) this spring.”

If the tree was unhealthy prior to the freeze, then it may not be able to recover or might be the target of insects and disease later this year. There is always the worry that trees become so stressed from these events that they are lost to insects. However, the freeze also severely impacted and reduced insect populations which should provide a period of respite and time for trees to recover their leaves and needles.

Texas A&M Forest Service foresters are asking landowners not to panic.  Damaged trees may have only suffered a temporary setback and healthy trees should produce new growth within a few weeks.  

If you are a homeowner with a freeze-damaged tree near your home or other buildings on your property, you may wish to contact a Certified Arborist for a closer inspection. A Certified Arborist will assess whether a tree poses a safety hazard, needs corrective pruning, and the overall health of the tree.

To find an arborist near you, visit Texas A&M Forest Service’s My Land Management Connector app at: https://texasforestinfo.tamu.edu/MyLandManagementConnector or search online at https://www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist/findanarborist.

Texas A&M Forest Service Contacts

Jacob Donellan, East Texas Operations Department Head, 936-564-9276, jdonellan@tfs.tamu.edu

Texas A&M Forest Service Communications Office, 979-458-6600, newsmedia@tamu.edu

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