Sunday, January 24, 2010

Victims of Drought

Looking back to my blog of August 2, 2009 about the drought, I reported that Robert Edmonson, our Texas Forest Service representative here in Johnson City, estimated that we had lost 1,000 Spanish Oaks due to the drought. ~ Our range conditions have made an amazing comeback because of good rains that began in October and continue to date ~ but not to be overly optimistic, the drought is NOT over. We are a long way from replenishing our “perched” or “local” aquifer that supplies us of all our drinking water here on the ranch . . . Now back to the losses of Spanish Oaks (also called Texas Oak and Red Oak). We have had time to look closer and were shocked and saddened to discover our losses of this species are closer to 2,000!

I suspected that this beautiful tree was dying when I took this picture in October, however I was advised to wait until next spring to be sure. As a general rule when the leaves lose their color early and do not fall off the branch, the tree is dead. Photograph taken by J. David.

This is the same tree 4 months later. A close look shows the canopy somewhat smaller than the first photo. Photograph taken by J. David.

You’re looking at a section of the trunk on the same tree. No need to wait until Spring. This tree is dead . . . You’re looking at a tree disease called Hypoxylon ~ I’m told it strikes Post, Blackjack and some Live Oaks as well. I didn’t notice it back in October because it was between the bark and the trunk. Now the bark has fallen and you can see the canker fungus which when scraped, even lightly, blows off into the air. I’m told Hypoxylon is an extremely weak pathogen, a Saprophyte fungus that eats dead wood . . . Now here’s the confusing part – it’s most likely the prolonged drought and the 60 days of heat over 100 degrees that killed these 2,000 ± trees. They were extremely stressed and that’s when the Hypoxylon spores move in. The Spanish Oak – Oh, and for the record the scientific name for Spanish Oak is Texas Red Oak, Quercus buckleyi. Photograph taken by J.David.

There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Add to these the natural disasters like the Haitian earthquake and closer to home the very needy or homeless. However, preserving the earth itself is important too. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636.


Sallie said...

J. David, I am SO SORRY about the loss of all those beautiful trees. Is it time to start replanting?

Julia said...

Sad to see indeed. We lost a bunch of post oaks on our property this year to that very same fungus. I checked with the Forrestry Service and I've seen the remnants of this scourge all over our county. My largest tree, with more than an 8 foot circumforance has succumbed. It's decaying skeleton presides over my septic field. I'm planting some burr oaks, but I'll never really replace all the ones I lost. It's good that you're education people about this fungus, even though there is little we can do to stop it. Thank goodness it is a "weak pathogen". Here's to a new growing season with new challenges.