Texas Mountain Laurel Follow-up

In my last post, Texas Mountain Laurel, A Seasonal Look, I wrote that these lovely small trees are year-round, stalwart evergreens, even when under ice.

My Texas Mountain Laurels have successfully withstood Texas’ capricious weather patterns, from extreme drought and heat, to mild winters suddenly punctuated by bitter cold, icy conditions. Two years ago, during the historic nine day deep freeze, not-so-affectionately called Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon, both of my laurels endured damage. Several limbs, big and small, died back. Some I pruned, others I left for the birds’ perching pleasure. No blooms happened that March, but both trees survived, albeit thinner in foliage and form.

Last week, another cold snap settled in for several days. It wasn’t as cold, only 29-32F, but rain, turning to ice, covered everything.

The half-inch of ice played havoc on tree limbs (and utility lines) all over Central Texas. The only damage in my garden was to my older Texas Mountain Laurel. This specimen, already weakened by age and 2021’s Snowpocalypse, suffered several breaks due to the heavy ice, impacting its canopy.

The tree survived, but a significant bit of top foliage is now gone. It wasn’t a lot of foliage, but enough of these extra bits now gone add arboreal insult to broken-branch injury.

This pile of foliage and limbs now sits out by the street, awaiting the City of Austin yard waste trucks to haul it away, to continue existence as compost, mulch, or Dillo Dirt.

What remains has shaken off the ice and is ready to move on to spring–and beyond.

This is the older Texas Mountain Laurel a few days before the ice storm. The upper left quadrant of foliage is where I have recently observed the Eastern Screech Owl couple perching together, as they meet one another each evening at sundown.

In the photo below, you can see that the foliage in that area is missing. However the tree remains viable, though weathered and aged.

The canopy is not as dense as it once was, the green not as robust and full. This tree is entering its last years, any ice damage adds to its struggles.

This second laurel has always grown shade. It’s never been as large or full as the other and sustained some damage from 2021’s storm.

This year’s ice storm had no real impact on this little tree. It’s ready for its spring flowering, limited though it is by shade.

Severe cold events and summer droughts have challenged both laurels, but they are tough plants and they stand their ground. The possibility of extreme weather events should always be considered when choosing plants for a garden. I wouldn’t hesitate to plant more Texas Mountain Laurels–and I have!

23 thoughts on “Texas Mountain Laurel Follow-up

    • Ugh, they really are the worst for so many reasons. We didn’t have much damage at all, so I feel fortunate with that.

      Oh, the owls. Sniff. Long story, but our cable from the nest box to the attic (that then goes to the computer broke with the ice. It’s old, so not all that surprising. I found it Saturday or Sunday. So The Hub snaked a new cable there, connected to the the cord that comes out of the box. We we logged on to see what the inside of the nest box showed, the camera was no longer facing the floor, but instead, the side, near the hole where the owls enter and exit. I then noticed some egg shells at the base of the tree and the only time I’ve ever seen that is two years ago when the nest box was raided by a predator and the owls abandoned the nest–which has happened again. I’ve seen both adults; Mama seems to stay in the back neighbors’ big elm tree, Dad is in a similarly situated tree a couple of doors away.

      We don’t know what raided; it could be an opossum, a racoon, or even fox. The good news for the owls is that it’s still plenty early enough for them to try again–just like they did two years ago and I think they had a brood. For us, we’ll still catch glimpses of them (mostly her–she likes to hang outside until it’s actually light). I’m going to keep watch as see if I can catch them breeding. We won’t see them as intimately if they have another clutch. I doubt they’d come back to the nest box, but I’ll be watching them.

      It’s mostly a disappointment for us; the owls have enough time to have another clutch of eggs. I wish them all good luck.


  1. I can’t find the article now, but I read that there’s one set of circumstances that allows a quick recovery from an ice storm: that’s if the ice and the temperature drop arrive nearly simultaneously, and then the ice thaws with a temperature rise that keeps the plants from being nipped on the back end of the storm. From what I read, that comes close to what you experienced. I guess we’ll find out, but if there’s any plant that can cope with Texas weather, it sure is the Texas Mountain Laurel.


    • I think you’re right. I’m not seeing any really damage on any of my plants. All the damage occurred back in December when it got to 15F and was below freezing for 4 or 5 days. Many of my herbaceous perennials were popping up green from the roots and they’re all still green and growing.

      You mentioned in your comment on my last post about our power outage. We lost power at about 5am Wednesday 2/1 and regained power at 5:15am on Sunday 2/5. Four full days! We bought ice for the fridge and freezer and that kept things cool. The post that I published on Monday was going to be ready sometime the Wednesday that we lost power, but…:)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gosh, you guys have been through a lot with the ice storm. Ice is so much worse than snow. Also, I can’t believe how long your power was out. Yikes! I’m glad your mountain laurels are so tough, and that your power is back on. Take care!


  3. I have a purple mountain laurel right next to a red bottle brush, the laurel is beautiful full round gives alot of shade. My bottle brush has lost some branches, but still blooms beautifully..but I live further south, winter is not as harsh as Austin.


  4. Ugh, I’m so sorry to hear about both laurel and owls (I read your response to Eliza – she beat me to my question). Ice is so hard on trees. About 6 years ago, I lost 5 pretty large limbs on my huge magnolia grandiflora when we first had ice, and then heavy, wet snow on top of the ice. I remember one of the loud C-R-A-A-A-C-K-K-K-s woke me up. So sorry you had so much damage. I do hope the owls try again.


  5. Nature has a mind of her own and that can cause havoc. But it is natural havoc and I have an “easier” time with that than human caused damage. I hope that your mountain laurels bounce back within a reasonably satisfying time. We haven’t had much tree damage in our yard over the years, possibly because heavy snow and freezing rain are more common here and built into their cell structure. The only tree we have lost completely was our magnolia that split down the middle from a heavy load of Halloween snow.
    I didn’t know that you were a “neighbor” of Steve S.


    • I tend to agree with you about humans being big havoc creators. Some of Austin’s problems with this particular ice storm is that so many people (and urban entities) tend to mis-prune their poor trees. There’s a lot of “lion-tailing” going on where the foliage on trees (remember–big trees) is stripped, except for the top canopy. With something like our Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis), the tremendous weight at the top and sides are a recipe for limb breakage. Obviously, with a 1/2 or more of ice, limbs split and other issues result.

      I know the neighborhood where Steve lives, he’s a bit west of our ‘hood. I’m often very familiar with Austin areas that he photographs, that’s kind of cool!

      Sorry about your Magnolia. I noticed that one of the prettiest Live Oaks in our neighborhood also split; about 1/4 of the tree is missing. It looks like they’re going to try to save it, I hope that works. The damage reminds me of a lightening strike.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s