Trees have difficult time with drought

By Rasmieyh Abdelnabi

Crops and bodies of water are not the only life sources suffering from the drought – trees are also bearing the brunt.

There is always worry about grass not getting enough water and turning yellow, but grass, unlike trees, has a good coping mechanism which allows it to shut down, state climatologist Jim Angel said.

It is more difficult for trees to adapt to dry weather, he said. Leaves are falling earlier this year because trees are not getting enough water to support them.

When trees lose their leaves, water is retained longer.

“It’s the trees going into survival mode,” said Terry Hannan, DeKalb County Forest Preserve superintendent.

Older trees can deal with the severe weather, but younger trees, especially ones planted this year, grow more susceptible to disease and insect infestation.

Trees in DeKalb County’s forest preserves were stressed by this year’s drought, Hannan said. However, leaves started falling only a couple of weeks earlier then expected.

The trees are doing fine because they are native to the area and adapt well to the conditions of northern Illinois, Hannan said. The drought of 1988 did not dramatically affect the trees because they adapted to the weather.

Native oaks, hickories and maples are hardwood tree species which are thousands of years old.

Cultivated trees, or trees not native to the area, have a more difficult time adjusting to the environment.

Newly planted trees in the forest preserves needed extra attention this summer, Hannan said.

The older trees are doing well because of their deep root system which allows them to draw water, Hannan said. However, the younger trees are still developing and growing.

The county watered the trees regularly and covered roots with mulch. Mulch shades the root system and prevents water from evaporating quickly.

Trees statewide are not faring as well as those in DeKalb County.

Ethan Weibrecht , a forester with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said trees have definitely been affected by the drought in Illinois.

The acorn and nut production is less this year so it does not allow for more trees to grow, he said.

On a large scale, like a forest preserve, nothing can be done to save the trees.

With trees in yards, Hannan recommends people water their trees once a week. Letting the water drip slowly over the roots will help the water absorb better. Using mulch also is highly recommended.