Considering the amount of moisture that Northeast Missouri has received since late February, last year’s drought seems like only a distant memory. But for some trees it may be too late.
“Trees need moisture, even in the winter months, and they were a long time in getting it. That compounded their problems. For some of them I think it’s going to be too late, but for some it’s going to be fine,” said Ed Tamerius, a member of the Hannibal Tree Board.
Tim Baker, a horticulture specialist for the University of Missouri Extension, says trees can be very resilient. He recommends waiting to break out the chain saw.
“Our trees were certainly showing major stress during the heat and drought, but they weren’t necessarily dying,” Baker said in a recent release. “Even if a tree had completely defoliated, give it a chance and see what happens when everything starts leafing out.”
In late July, Tamerius conducted a city-wide tree survey in Hannibal. He found 18 trees that were dead, 20 that he judged to be dying and 39 that were “hurting.”
“I could see that there were quite of few of them that were either dying or in bad shape. We’re waiting until the trees leaf out to find out how severe the damage is going to be. We know there’s going to be a lot of mortality,” said Tamerius, who “kind of expected” what his survey revealed.
Trees along Warren Barrett Drive were especially hard hit. In the short distance from Grand Avenue to Lindell Avenue, Tamerius counted five dead trees, six that were dying and 10 that were in trouble.
In Tamerius’ mind, it’s no secret what put the trees lining Warren Barrett at greater risk.
“A lot of them are on a harsh type of site. There’s a lot of backfill along the road there that includes rock, gravel and things like that, so they’ve got a few things going against them that other trees wouldn’t have. For them to survive there they’ve got to have a lot of help,” he said.
It’s not just young trees that had trouble dealing with last year’s dry conditions.
“You’re going to see some older trees that’s impacted, there’s no doubt about that,” said Tamerius. “When you look around town you’re going to see a lot of them that if they’re not dead, they’re under a great deal of stress. Back in the summer we saw some that the leaves were turning brown on, and in some cases, were dropping their leaves prematurely. Whether we have any mortality on those, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Page 2 of 2 - While recent rains will “help the small ones (trees) really well,” some trees in the flood plain might actually be getting too much moisture.
“Some trees do not tolerate being under water and it can be very detrimental to them,” said Tamerius. “If a tree is established and is a bottom-land species like a river birch, sycamore, or something like that that grows near the river, they’ll be fine if it (water) is not there too long. It depends a lot on the species.”