Arborist: Drought most likely not a factor in pecan tree's demise


by ANDREW CHUNG / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN GUSKY

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndrewC_KVUE

Posted on May 3, 2013 at 6:01 PM

Updated Friday, May 3 at 6:21 PM

AUSTIN -- Inside Uncle Billy's barbecue and brewery on Barton Springs Road, it was business as usual on Friday.

Outside, it was anything but usual, as workers continued to remove a 350-year-old pecan tree that fell on the South Austin restaurant.

Despite what you might think, the drought most likely did not play a role in this tree's demise. 

"The tree would likely still be standing today if we didn't have the high winds yesterday. That was a main contributor of why the tree fell," said Michael Embesi, an arborist with the City of Austin.

Embesi said other factors, like old age and a weakened root structure, made the pecan tree vulnerable to the high winds.

While that pecan tree may not necessarily have been a victim of the drought, there were a few trees in a nearby neighborhood that did looked stressed, like a sycamore which had a dead branch, as well as dark spots on its trunk. 

Embesi said that's a sign the drought had stressed this tree. However, he noted some of the other trees in the same neighborhood look fine. 

"Fortunately, the rainfall patterns over the last couple of months have delivered adequate moisture for our trees," he said.

It's obvious no two trees are alike. Some need less water; others need more. And it may sound counter intuitive but too much water can be a bad thing for a tree.

Rosalind Steel lives in that South Austin neighborhood and takes pride in the trees in her yard. 

"We did have the big tree pruned last year, the branches were getting so heavy, they were almost touching the ground," she said.

It’s a smart move, according to arborists, since trees will start dropping branches to cope with drought stress.

Embesi said it’s important to watch your trees for signs of drought stress, and to consult with a professional arborist if those trees should show signs of trouble.


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