Texas Homeowners Beware: Dangerous Zombie Trees Created by February Freeze

"They're trees that are dead and just don't know it yet."

It's been months since a deadly winter storm laid siege to parts of Texas back in February, and homeowners still aren't out of the woods.

Even with utilities long since restored and summer just around the corner, experts warn that there might be another horror on the horizon for survivors of the historic freeze: zombie trees.

Houston Neighborhood Aerial
Art Wager/Getty Images

As Matt Petty, an arborist who works with Davey Tree, explained to the Houston Chronicle, not all of the trees killed by the extreme winter weather appear dead.

"They're trees that are dead and just don't know it yet," Petty said. "They're in decline with crippling health or safety issues that are not visible to the untrained eye."

While it could be years before these so-called zombie trees reveal themselves, he told the paper that he expects most to begin showing signs of death in the heat of July and August. Some will be salvageable, but others will pose a threat to people and property and should be removed.

Texas A&M Forest Service experts told KTRK-TV that oaks in particular have had a hard time recovering from the frigid weather.

According to Petty, the vascular systems in some trees that are exposed to extremely cold temperatures can essentially become freeze-dried. That's when fungus and insects move in.

"Imagine you have a straw and you're sucking on a milkshake," he explained to the Houston Chronicle. "Suddenly, that straw collapses."

There aren't clear-cut guidelines for identifying a zombie tree. Instead, experts say to use your gut.

"We all probably know what a good-looking tree looks like," Curt Smith, another Davey Tree arborist, told KTRK-TV. "You probably drew one in kindergarten. We all have that idea, 'Hey, that's a pretty tree,' or 'Hmmm, something doesn't look right.'"

If you suspect your property is host to zombie trees, it's best to reach out to a professional. They will be able to provide a diagnosis and course of action.

Be careful out there, y'all!

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