Sunday, April 15, 2007

Weather Damaged Smoky Mountain Plants

Easter weekend unseasonable cold weather in the Smoky Mountains especially in the higher altitudes of North Carolina has damaged plants and crops but will they recover?

The answer for most part is yes although some food crops will have a diminished if any crop this year as a result of the unseasonable late deep freeze for no less than 3 nights in a row.

The severity of the damage is dependent on the species, as well as the extreme in temperate, durations and the preexisting health of the plants. For example the trees in the Smoky Mountains such as poplar and gum will replace damaged foliage rather quickly possibly this season whereas oak and hickories will take as long as a year to replace leaves damaged in the freeze.

Weather damage to foliage can be identified by the condition of the leaves for example if the leaves are purple or blacked they are most likely dead from ice crystals forming inside the leaves that have punctured cell membranes in the leaf. This will cause the leaf to lose its natural turgidity (stiffness) and lead to the leafs eventual demise.

Plants that are affected in this manner with enough leaves that die become stressed which is exacerbated id the plant attempts to re-flush (grow) new foliage as to do so the plant will have to draw upon already depleted starch reserves. If there any significant additional stresses to the plant during this growing season such as drought, insects or diseases there is a high probability the plant will die.

Less detrimental to the plants of the Smoky Mountains who weathered the last strong frost this year are those that exhibit is a rolled or drooping appearance to the leaves called "epinasty" which is caused by the loss of hydration in the leaves.

Gradual warming and plenty or rain are the best cures for both conditions. Today's snow in the Smoky Mountains is helping with the rehydration the plants require, but the cold weather may be producing further damages especially ion the colder higher elevations. If we are lucky tomorrow warming temperatures and rain will help.

If plants in your Smokies garden were damaged by the heavy freezes the best course of action is a heavy soaking twice a weekend refrain from fertilizing this calendar year.

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