Arborists report: Illegally hacked pecan tree should survive, but may need extra water

The oddly shaped pecan tree before it was vandalized. (Photo by Velpeau Hawes)
The unusual Lake Highlands Park pecan tree before it was vandalized. (Photo by Velpeau Hawes)

Good news, Dendrophiles, although a significant number of branches were cut off the oddly shaped pecan tree in Lake Highlands Park on Peavy, expert arborists expect it will survive. But the tree’s lifespan was likely cut short, according to a blog post by neighbor Amy Martin.

The tree was damaged on March 30 when 65-year-old Albert Santos hacked up the roughly 100-year-old pecan, seemingly to obtain valuable wood which can fetch thousands. Luckily, observant neighbors called police and blocked Santos from fleeing the area until he could be arrested (it’s a harrowing tale, read it here).

Steve Houser of the Texas Historic Tree Coalition investigated the injuries, reported in Martin’s blog: “It appears that 50-60 percent of the foliage was removed, which reduces the trees ability to produce its own food by this percentage. Foliage produces food for the tree through photosynthesis with the sun. With up to 60 percent of the foliage missing, it is akin to cutting your diet by 60 percent. You might survive it…if you are healthy enough.”

Karen Woodard, a city forester with the Trinity Watershed Management, added: “At this time any additions of fertilizer or pruning to ‘fix’ bad cuts made will further stress the tree. As we are heading into the heat of the summer, allowing the tree to compartmentalize the wounds and attempt to replace as much of the leaf loss as it can is critical. The most limiting factor will be available water, and as such we may need additional water be brought into the site during the summer months.”

Martin reports that neighbors are organizing volunteers to keep the tree watered to help in healing.

Questions are still swirling about what should be done with the wood Santos illegally removed. One 90 Smoked Meats has offered to dry it and use it for a series of free community barbecues. But on neighborhood social media sites, others have questioned whether it could be used by local artists. “On other matters, discussions with the Dallas Park and Recreation about use of the landmark tree’s cut wood are moving forward, albeit slowly,” Martin writes. “But should we be cleared to use the wood, exciting plans are afoot involving art, barbecue and the Bath House this fall.”

For those curious, the history of this tree has long been debated. While Indian marker trees were usually bent as saplings to grow in unusual directions to serve as guide posts for the Native Americans, it is too young to be of that era. “Even though I had larger cuts to analyze yesterday than I had in 2014, I did not find it old enough to qualify as a Comanche Marker Tree,” Houser reports. “I know this will not please the neighborhood but growth rings are a direct reflection of its growth rate and its potential age. The potential age ranged from 85 years old up to 110 years old, based on the current growth ring research.  A true Comanche Marker Tree must be at least 145 years old.”


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