Extreme Weather Hard On Trees And Plants

While this piece on changing weather and its effect on plants was written for our area here in Southeast New Mexico, the information can be applied to a lot of areas.

Article By Woods Houghton

Extreme changes in weather are hard on plants and trees. In Eddy county we more often than not see a period of time in the mid 70’s then three days later the temperature will not get over 40 F, followed by a time back in the high 60’s. This is very hard on trees and other plants. It can reveal itself as frost cracking, bark splitting, or bark discoloration know as scalding. I often see this in trees that are exposed to brick walls, pavement or reflection from white rocks. Often it is the wrong plant in the wrong place. It is made worse by trees which do not receive adequate water late in the season before winter hits.

What happens is warm winter sunlight warms up the southern or southwestern side of young or smooth or dark barked trees or a wall or pavement reflect sunlight or warmth to the tree. When the temperatures drop the bark than cool down to ambient temperatures or may even get cooler then ambient air because of the cooling effect that occurs with temperature loss.

Another factor is winter sunlight can actually dehydrate the bark usually on the southern exposure. The symptoms may not occur immediately but may occur up to three years later. The symptoms are splits or crack, sunken dead areas or bark pealing. To prevent this keep the soil around the trees moist this helps cool the trees, use mulch around trees that is natural in color. Paint susceptible trees with white water based paint diluted to the consistency of whole milk for about 3.5 feet down.

Eddy County Extension Service, New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. All programs are available to everyone regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. New Mexico State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Eddy County Government Cooperating.

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