Indiana News

Drought's Long Arm Beginning to Claim Hoosier Trees

Full effects may not be known for six more years

7/5/2013


Crews have pruned limbs from yellow poplars at the statehouse in preparation for removing the damaged trees. (WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)

The effects of last year's scorching drought are starting to take casualties among Indiana's trees.

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Crops took a beating last summer, but trees are self-regulating -- they sprout only as many leaves as they can support. But while the drought may not kill trees right away, it did weaken them. Plant pathologist Phil Marshall with the Department of Natural Resources says bugs and fungi sense that weakness and attack the tree.

Indiana's state tree, the yellow poplar, is the first to show the effects of a drought because of its large leaves and the large number of them. Marshall estimates half the state's yellow poplars, or tulip trees, have been damaged. Other trees, particularly red oaks, are showing some damage, but Marshall says the full effect of the drought won't be clear for as much as another six years.

Four of the five tulip trees on the statehouse lawn have been judged beyond saving, and are being cut down a little at a time.

Marshall says there's nothing foresters can do to help trees which are already weakened. But trees which were scheduled to come down in the next five years anyway may be harvested early, in hopes of keeping insect infestations from spreading.

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