AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center was not spared from the copious amounts of freezing rain dumped on Central Texas trees last week.
Though some of their beloved trees lost a few limbs through the storm, Andrea DeLong-Amaya, Director of Horticulture at the center, said it could have been much worse. She also explained why there is a silver lining to the lost branches of our cherished evergreens.
“The ice storm hit us as it did all over town,” DeLong-Amaya said. “The live oaks and the Evergreen, like the cedars, have a lot of surface area to capture that ice, and it just got so heavy and broke off a bunch of limbs. So I would say most of the trees on our property have some amount of damage.”
Though most trees were marred, she said, thankfully, none were uprooted.
“It is sad to see trees [fall] of really any age. I mean, we have some very nicely shaped beautiful trees that don’t look the same anymore,” she said.
A benefit to the destruction of the trees around Central Texas is that the fallen debris can represent new life in the coming years. After the last ice storm in 2007, the destruction led to a great deal of the growth of new saplings.
“We realized that it was a really important ecological phenomenon,” DeLong-Amaya said.
She said that deer often eat seedlings before they can grow large enough. The fallen branch debris from the 2007 ice storm buttressed the burgeoning trees until they got big enough to withstand deer demands.
“Those tree limb branches and tree limbs that were on the ground actually created nurseries for seedlings to propagate and would not be beaten down by the deer. That was a really important thing to have happened,” she continued.
Further, she said part of the reason why many live oak trees have those beautifully gnarled limbs could be from the ice storms over the years.
“(The trees) might have been misshapen for a while, and then they grew out of it. Now they have this really cool character. And that’s part of how live oaks deal with the ice,” DeLong-Amaya said.
DeLong-Amaya thinks the freeze was not cold enough to prevent wildflowers from blooming come spring. A particularly warm January led to some plants prematurely leafing out. DeLong-Amaya said some of those plants got a little frost damage but that they should be alright.
“Maybe they will be a little bit slow to get going again, but they’ll be fine,” she said.
“We have had some good rains kind of intermittently. It was a dry spell for a while but it wasn’t catastrophic or anything. So I think it’s looking to be pretty good.”