Drought tak­ing toll on county’s tree pop­u­la­tion

Lo­cal trees stressed by con­di­tions

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Rachel Oswald

Yet an­other un­for­tu­nate re­sult of the South­east’s his­toric drought has been its harm­ful ef­fect on the county’s tree pop­u­la­tion.

While it’s still too early to know just how many trees will die as a re­sult of the drought, Harold Quigley, chief ranger for the New­ton-Rock­dale-Dekalb Forestry Unit said some changes are al­ready ob­serv­able.

“A lot of the trees in the county tossed or shed their leaves re­ally early this year, just to get rid of ev­ery­thing that was need­ing wa­ter just to pro­tect them­selves,” Quigley said. “As far as losses go, we won’t know un­til it’s time for them to green up again come spring­time.”

There are an es­ti­mated 98,200 forested acres in New­ton County to­day ac­cord­ing to a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view with Quigley.

“We know they’re stressed by the way they’re shed­ding their leaves early and loos­ing a lot of their limbs,” Quigley said.

Cou­pled with the late lake freeze this spring which stunted the growth of fo­liage, the many 100 de­gree days this sum­mer have fur­ther con­trib­uted to the poor health of the trees said Quigley.

“It won’t be a ma­jor loss to the canopy but it will be a loss to the beauty of the county tem­po­rar­ily,” said Quigley of the po­ten­tially large loss in tree life. “If they do loose some of th­ese trees, the best thing is to go ahead and plant them again.”

An abun­dance of mistle­toe, a par­a­sitic plant which grows on the branches of trees rob­bing them of mois­ture, is an­other fac­tor harm­ing the county’s hard­wood trees said Quigley.

“It is a cy­cle and some trees are go­ing to die,” Quigley said. “You re­ally can’t tell which ones they will be. A lot of the older trees will die. If the drought ended (to­mor­row) we’re still go­ing to have a long-term re­cov­ery pe­riod.”

Quigley ad­vised res­i­dents of New­ton County to be aware of fall­ing tree limbs this win­ter.

“Even if a tree looks healthy, be care­ful this year be­cause the limbs are weak and you’re gong to have a lot of break­age.”

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