Sep 15, 2023 - News

Hermann Park's trees are showing signs of heat, drought stress

Illustration of a floatation device lifesaver wrapped around a tree

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Hermann Park's trees are showing signs of stress, and the park's conservancy is raising funds to help care for them during the heat and drought and get more people involved.

Context: Doreen Stoller, president of Hermann Park Conservancy, says she hasn't seen the trees this stressed since the 2011 drought. The leaves are wilting, the roots are drying out and the ground around the trees is cracking.

  • Hermann Park has more than 12,000 trees, most of them being one of 300 native varieties. Stoller hopes all the trees can get attention and care, including the 80-plus-year-old heritage trees and the young trees that need extra support to survive and establish roots.

Why it matters: Large trees provide benefits like oxygen, pollution removal, shade and energy conservation, according to Matthew Weaver, a forester with Texas A&M.

  • "If we can't get these little trees to be big trees, then we're losing a lot of those environmental and socioeconomic benefits," Weaver tells Axios.

The intrigue: While the McGovern Centennial Gardens and the Japanese Garden are on an irrigation system, most of Hermann Park is managed as a natural landscape, meaning the trees receive water primarily through rainfall.

The latest: The conservancy's volunteers have been carrying buckets of water from McGovern Lake and individually watering each of the young trees, which Weaver says can be effective.

  • Meanwhile, the live oak trees on Main Street that have also been under extra duress, as they're near the concrete roads, have been getting watered by the city's parks department. Each tree is thoroughly soaked with water for 20 to 30 minutes using a large water truck every week.

Details: Only part of the funds raised will be allocated to watering the trees. The rest will go toward taking care of the soil, the trees' long-term health, deep root feeding and hiring outside help, per Stoller.

Of note: While Houston has seen some rain this week, the city remains in a drought, and the recent rainfall has provided only marginal — yet important— relief.

The big picture: Trees across Houston have been showing signs of stress this year, likely because of the compounded stress from previous years' drought and other recent climate impacts, Weaver says.

Go deeper: Here are tips from the Texas A&M Forest Service department on caring for drought-stricken trees.


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