Feels like: -6°F
Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013
Weather StressPosted Wednesday, August 24, 2011, at 4:35 PM
For photo prints, go to www.stevenfoster.com/prints.html
This year they sit in suspended animation. They seem to be soaking up whatever bits of moisture an isolated thunderstorm may provide. This is just one sign that our forests are just surviving, not thriving this year.
When tree ring specialists look at tree rings for the year 2011 they will see some unusual patterns. Winter brought long periods of cold with temperatures dipping to --22°F in my yard. Fine for cold-loving trees in New England, but on the edge of survivable cold temperatures for some woody plants in the South.
I was happy to see that yaupon hollies I had planted last summer survived the extreme cold, and in a protected spot, a fig tree I planted last year survived the frigid air, albeit re-sprouting from the roots this spring.
Torrential spring rains imbibed our forest vegetation with abundant luxuriance. Trees leafed out with unusual vigor. Leaves were big, fat, and juicy with moisture. New growth shot out in response to the stimulus. A relatively pleasant May and June made for satisfied forests.
The lack of a late freeze generally meant that trees were laden with fruit and nuts, such as acorns. Then came the searing record heat of July and the first week of August with nary a drop of rain. What were lush leaves just a few weeks earlier gasped in a few breaths of carbon dioxide and puffed out their last puffs of oxygen.
In response to the heat, and to preserve moisture, leaves shriveled as tree roots sucked in whatever water was left in the leaves. Lush, almost tropical, large-leaved papaws at the edge of my yard dropped their leaves two weeks ago.
Are the trees still alive? For these and other trees with premature leaf drop, we will have to wait until next spring for the answer. We still need more rain.
Steven Foster is a world renowned botanical photographer. He has published many books, including 2 for National Geographic
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