Prognosis Good For Live Oak Trees

The coast's resilient live oaks are bouncing back. The majestic trees that are so symbolic of the Mississippi Gulf Coast took quite a beating from the hurricane. But the prognosis for recovery is promising.

It's not just the song birds signaling spring's arrival. Many live oaks that survived the storm are sprouting new growth.

"It's amazing something this large can still be standing after we see all of the buildings down," said Missouri tourist, Donna Trammell.

"We don't have, to my knowledge, this type of oak in the state of Missouri. But they are gorgeous," she added.

Live oaks have long been admired by visitors for their unique beauty. Now those same visitors are impressed by their resilience.

"It's amazing they sustained. It is wonderful. They're about the only thing that made it up and down the coast," said Missouri visitor, Loretta Cleveland.

The live oaks along Highway 90 bore the brunt of Katrina's fury. Wind and salt water intrusion were just the beginning of tree troubles.

"Loss of rooting space from the scouring of the top soil as the water was receding. Debris. We've had, I'm sure we're getting some construction damage from the debris removal," said City of Biloxi arborist, Eric Nolan.

Thankfully, live oaks are not a tender species.

"Live oaks are about the toughest thing we've got on the coast. And if you don't believe that, just ride down to Point Cadet and the houses are gone, but the trees are still there," said Nolan.

The plight of some live oaks is obvious, the storm simply proved too much. But for many others, gauging the health of the trees is quite difficult. While some are showing abundant signs of new growth, others that appear dead may still be able to bounce back.

"This year, the leaf year is going to be kind of tough. They're going to be kind of ragged looking. But as long as they've got green on them, we're going to be happy with that," said Nolan.

M-DOT has pruned some of the live oaks along Highway 90. The department also cut down some trees and limbs that created a safety hazard to drivers. This week, M-DOT will begin planting some new live oaks along the beach highway in Gulfport.