June 7, 2012 @ 6:49 PM

Noticing shriveled leaves on your oaks? Finding yellow and brown maple leaves well before the autumn months? These are signs that your trees are probably dehydrated or, more commonly speaking, experiencing the effects of drought.

Not unlike humans, trees need a high amount of water to survive. Typically this means a 120%-200% moisture content in the tree’s soil. Since trees cannot pick up and move to Seattle for more rainfall, they will stand silent and thirsty during a drought and become more susceptible to drought effects. The effects of drought on trees include disease, wilting leaves, and narrower growth rings in the tree trunk. A few common native Texas trees, such as the pine tree, will show more subtle effects. Pine needles do not wilt because they hold on to their needles for roughly two years before dropping to the ground. During a dry period, the older needles will drop before their two-year period is up, so keep your eyes peeled for this tiny change!

Looking at Texas drought history aids in understanding the long-term drought repercussions. For instance, when the 1999-2000 drought occurred, the effects of the drought spilled over into the next growing season. Even when rainfall levels restored to normal, some of the plant life did not fully recover. This is why it is important to prevent drought damage as early as possible.

Lucky for our bark-coated friends, there are many ways we can protect our parched trees. The key to keeping moisture in the tree’s surrounding soil is to irrigate slowly; it’s much easier to drink water from a fountain than a hose on full blast! Try perforating the bottom of a bucket, so when you fill the bucket with water, the water slips slowly into the soil. You can also use the house hose; set the hose by the base of the tree and turn the knob so it creates a thin stream of water that the tree can soak up easily.

Be sure to keep an eye out for our native Texas trees during dry periods by noting the effects of drought on them—that way we can continue seeing the forests for the trees!