December 30, 2013

Many plants survive ice damage

Winter Is Here!

According to the calendar, winter officially arrived Dec. 21. But winter weather blew into northern New York a few weeks before that and now we’re in the midst of winter at its most challenging. 

I love a good snow storm; to me, that’s perfect winter weather. Yes, there are plenty of challenges to managing snow but at least it insulates the ground, is pretty to look at, and fun to play, ski or snowshoe in.

But the ice storm of last week, followed by sub-zero temperatures this week, are no one’s idea of a good time, not even mine. How are our plants coping?

As anyone who was here for the Ice Storm of 1998 knows, ice can do major damage to trees and shrubs.

Many shrubs can re-grow pretty well even if cut to the ground, but it may take a few years for them to resume their size and form. Deciduous plants, those that lose their leaves such as lilac, spirea and forsythia, are quite resilient and will either spring back once the weight is relieved or else grow back if they have to be cut to the ground. Evergreen shrubs including cedars, mugo pines and rhododendrons may be more disfigured and take longer to regrow after extensive damage.

I was hoping the ice would melt off within a few days, but the extended cold period is preventing that. At least it hasn’t been windy, let’s hope it stay that way. It’s hard enough for the branches to hold up all that weight, but if those stiff, heavy branches start swinging around in the wind, breakage is sure to follow.

Trees have similar challenges as shrubs but they are less able to grow replacement limbs.

Most of the maples and oaks and all the apples I’ve seen so far seem to be holding up. Birches are very flexible and can bend almost in half without breaking. They often recover fine once the ice is off but sometimes the trunk can be flexed so much that the interior layers of tissue separate. If that happens the tree may never be able to straighten up completely and the tree may need replacing.

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