Debris lines the streets of the Oklahoma City metro area. Hit hard by the ice storm, we’ll be cleaning up for a long time, and I’ve heard Tulsa is worse. We’re part of an official seven county disaster area. I took these pictures near HH’s office on the south side of the city. Because I have children in schools north and south, I get to see damage throughout.
After studying which trees were most effected by their icy coating, these are my thoughts about the storm. Where I live (way, way north,) we had just as much ice. However, I lost few trees. My biggest casualties were my Redbuds (Cercis reniformis,) but the ones growing on our property are old and weak splitting at the slightest wind. Our native oaks lost some branches, but damage was minimal. My Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) and Loblolly pines (Pinus taeda) came through the storm unscathed.
However, in populated areas like the inner city and suburbs of Oklahoma City and Edmond, many trees lost life and limb. They are now piled up on the street corners waiting to be turned into mulch.
I’ve made a list of those trees which I saw most hurt:
- Bradford Pear: These trees became extremely popular in the last twenty years because of their spring bloom and small stature. You see them throughout the state along city streets and in many suburban yards. That’s if any remain after the storm. Bradford pears are a terrible choice in Oklahoma because they don’t hold up to wind, snow or ice. Please don’t be beguiled by this tree’s beautiful pink and white blooms. They are pretty, but if you look at mature plantings, they are missing at least one multi-trunk or more.
- Elm Trees: Including American elms (Ulmus americana) and other disease resistant varieties like the Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia.)
- Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis): Don’t get me wrong. I love these big beautiful, disease resistant trees, but they had problems during the storm. I saw many of the younger ones with damage. Maybe at their maturity, they would stand up to ice load better, but they grow at a rate of 2-3 feet per year with good care. That is fast for a hardwood tree.
- Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis): I believe the Sycamores had problems because they still had leaves, and the weight of the ice on their leaves pulled them down.
It’s sad to observe the damage to our landscape. Much of the metro was prairie at statehood, but we now have abundant trees for beauty and shade. If you are one of the unfortunate ones who lost one or more trees, what will you plant to replace them?
There’s a saying: “You plant vineyards for your children, and olive trees for your grandchildren.” I’m not suggesting olive trees for our environment, but before you dig the hole, go to a local nursery or speak to an arborist. We’ve got to quit treating our trees like we do the rest of our disposable society. Trees are magnificent plants which deserve some thought. With an expert’s suggestions, try a tree that has slow steady growth. Hardwood trees take longer to mature, but your children and grandchildren, or should you move, the people who buy your house, will thank you for it.