Palm Trees Suffered During Freezing Temps; What To Do To Save Them

EL PASO, Texas - Have you noticed the condition of El Paso's many palm trees?

Falling fawns and discoloration are reason for concern. The Borderland's freeze two weeks ago has left them either dead, dying or in critical condition.

Up and down Interstate 10 and North Mesa to the East Side and even the Northeast, everywhere you look in the Borderland, there are palm trees in distress.

"The entire stadium is surrounded by palms," said Steve Martinez, ticket manager at Northeast El Paso's Cohen Stadium, where they have, or had, about 100 beautiful palm trees.

"It was such a harsh freeze, you could tell just from looking at them right now that they took a beating," Martinez said. "I hope that they do survive."

Joel Jones, an agronomist and president of El Paso horticultural center "The Growing Concern," said he doesn't think any area of town went untouched.

"The Mexican fan palm, which is currently or prominently grown here, cannot withstand temperatures down below 10 degrees," Jones said.

He said it's not only pipes that freeze in cold weather, palm trees do as well, because they're about 90-percent water. So when that freezes, the inside of the tree -- like a pipe -- bursts!

"When that happens, it disrupts the conducting vessels in the cell tissue," he said. "It's damaged beyond repair."

Just like the 40 palms that dot University Hill Plaza near UTEP appear to be. Palm trees that the owner told us have been there almost 20 years.

"We estimate that 30 to 40 percent of the palms will be affected to the point that they may die," Jones said.

He said the best thing to do at this point is leave them alone until spring.

"We would encourage people not to prune them yet, not to take them out," Jones said. "Water them reasonably once every 10 days or so and maybe a light fertilizer application coming into the spring."

He said you should have an idea soon if your palm trees are gone for good.

"If it's still green, there's still a chance it may come back," Jones said, "but it may be mid-summer before that occurs."

Jones added that there's a tendency to prune palms here too often, which can leave the trees uninsulated. He said they should never be pruned before March or April.

If your palm trees do turn out to be dead from the freeze, it could prove rather expensive to have them removed. Jones said sometimes it costs more to take one out than it does to put one in.//

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