Trees on the Plains

The Texas High Plains region cannot boast of a recent rich and diverse history of trees and forests. Newcomers and travellers through the Texas Panhandle view isolated reminders of what they left behind in the great forests far to the east, west and north. Here grasses dominate, often only a solitary tree remains, standing guard over an abandoned homestead, farm or ranch.

Tree Selection

The high, flat, windy plains is a challenging area for trees. Wind, erratic rainfall and drought, blizzards, sudden temperature shifts and hail contribute to difficult growing conditions. Because of this and our cold hardiness range, our tree list is short compared to other ecological regions.The City of Amarillo, County Extension offices and Texas Forest Service all have lists of trees considered suitable. Consider planting trees from an area tree list. Choosing one of these trees is not a 100% guarantee of long term survival; that depends on many factors. Not all trees will grow well in all Panhandle soil conditions. However, these trees have been proven, long term, to require much less maintenance and are more suited to our climate and conditions than others when planted in the right location.

The BP America Arbor Trail (located between Coulter Street and Wolflin Avenue, just north of I-40) within Amarillo's Rock Island Rail Trail identifies 24 tree species and provides an opportunity to see the tree sizes and shapes, along with growth characteristics.

Tree Planting

Because it seems conditions are stacked against long term tree survival, proper timing and planting of trees is paramount. The cause of many tree problems and tree death is caused by improper planting techniques. Often, the problems won't show up for many years; by then it's too costly or too late to save your investment.

Tree Maintenance

Even trees that are regionally appropriate require maintenance. Most trees require supplemental irrigation. Especially during times of drought and water restrictions, it is important to water your trees. Hundreds of thousands of trees died in Texas during the drought of 2011 in native areas and cities. Many home owners stopped irrigating their landscape. This puts added stress on the trees over and above the increased summer temperatures. The trees' immune system is weakened, causing them to be more susceptible to pests, diseases and future weather extremes.

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