|The beginnings of Winter Storm Uri|
With winter storm Uri well behind us, many observations are being made regarding which tree species successfully survived the 8-day stretch of extreme winter weather conditions. First and foremost, all trees that are native to Central Texas generally fared much better than their non-native counterparts. Over the centuries, native species have adapted to all sorts of weather conditions, from cycles of droughts and floods, heat and cold, and even accumulations of ice or snow. These adaptations greatly increase each native species’ resiliency over time.
A second factor that determined the survival of a native tree species was whether it was evergreen or deciduous. The foliage of evergreen species increases the surface area that can trap ice and heavy snow, causing limbs to bow, split, and break, which can weaken the entire structure of the tree. While deciduous trees can be covered in ice and snow, in winter they do not have foliage that can trap the extra weight that can cause permanent damage.
Third, established plants have a much better chance of survival in extreme winter weather conditions, so now is the time to plant! While there are many desirable native trees that are deciduous, there are several that are also attractive bloomers in the spring, including Escarpment Black Cherry (Prunus serotina var. eximia), Roughleaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii), and Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum).
|Escarpment Black Cherry in bloom|
|Escarpment Black Cherry fruit|
Found only in the limestone-based soils in Central Texas, Escarpment Black Cherry is a distinct and isolated subspecies of native Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). Growing up to 50 feet tall, it is distinguished from other subspecies in Texas by its intermediate height and its virtually hairless, pointed elliptical green leaves with finely toothed margins that turn golden yellow in fall. It has attractive silvery bark and long showy clusters of tiny white flowers in March to April followed by purplish-red fruits that are favored by wildlife. This native cherry prefers sunny areas in wooded canyons and on slopes, and is a larval host plant for many species of butterflies and moths including Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Two-tailed Swallowtail, Cecropia Moth, and White Furcula.
|Roughleaf Dogwood in bloom|
|Roughleaf Dogwood fruit|
Roughleaf Dogwood is a small tree to 16 feet with opposite, prominently veined, oval, green leaves with an abruptly drawn-out tip, slightly rough above and slightly velvety below, that turn purplish-red in fall. From April to early June numerous broad clusters of cream-colored flowers appear at the ends of branches, developing into small, fleshy, bright white, spherical fruits. This native dogwood prefers partially shady, wooded limestone hills, and provides cover for various species of wildlife, especially birds, as it spreads from root sprouts and if allowed, eventually creates a natural thicket.
|Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum in bloom|
A shapely small tree, typically to 18 feet but sometimes taller, Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum has attractive, glossy dark-green paired leaves that turn reddish-purple in fall, reddish-brown twigs, and dark bark that separates into rectangular plates. Platter-shaped clusters of tiny, creamy white flowers in March to April are followed by small, oval, waxy, blue-black fruits that are relished by several species of birds and mammals. This native viburnum prefers woodland edges and thickets in partial shade, and is of special value to native pollinators like bumble bees.
|Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum fruit|
It’s important to note that while winter storm Uri was no doubt an exceptional weather event, it’s never too early to plant some of our more resilient native trees!