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Flooding and Trees

By Gail Ruhl, Senior Plant Disease Diagnostician, Interim P&PDL Director, Purdue University

Click on image to enlarge.

Wabash River flooding the Lafayette Municipal Golf Course

Are your trees treading water with the recent deluge of rain? The natural question is how long can trees survive flooding before injury results? According to Jeff Iles, Extension Horticulturalist, Iowa State University, the prospect for survival and continued growth is good if flood waters recede in seven days or less. However, if flood waters cover roots of sensitive trees for longer periods, symptoms of injury such as leaf chlorosis (yellowing), downward curling of leaves, leaf drop, and branch dieback may occur.

Following the recession of flood waters, saturated, poorly-drained soils will continue to pose a great hazard for trees, since oxygen is unavailable to roots in waterlogged conditions. Another hidden danger that may result from flooding is the deposition of sediment over tree roots. Silt and sand deposited over feeder roots to a depth greater than three inches may impede movement of oxygen to tree roots, especially on small or newly-planted trees. If feasible, sediment should be removed.

Recovery practices include enhancing the vigor of flood-stressed trees by following proper tree maintenance practices and eliminating additional stress. Fertilization is not a cure or remedy for root injury caused by flooding. Dead or severely cankered branches should be removed as soon as possible; other corrective pruning should be done during the dormant season.

Aerating the soil, mulching, and watering during extended dry periods are recommended practices that may help enhance vigor, but they are not rescue treatments for severely injured trees. For future landscaping plans, avoid planting sensitive species in flood-prone areas.

For more information on flooding and trees, go to:

Understanding the Effects of Flooding on Trees (IA)
http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/SUL1.pdf (PDF 124K)

After the Storm; Garden and Landscape Triage
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/storm2003.html

Storm Damage to Trees and Landscape Plants
http://bluestem.hort.purdue.edu/plant/stormdamage.html
Click on "flood damage."

Flooding and Its Effects on Trees (USDA Forest Service)
http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/n_resource/flood/cover.htm

Landscape Plants for Moist to Slightly Moist Areas HO-226
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/hort/ext/Pubs/HO/HO_226.pdf

Landscape Plants for Wet Areas HO-227
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/hort/ext/Pubs/HO/HO_227.pdf

 


The information given herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. Any person using products listed assumes full responsibility for their use in accordance with current direction of the manufacturer. Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access institution.

Information listed is valid only for the state of Indiana.


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