Trees Most Susceptible to Cold Weather Damage?

farmboy1(5)January 17, 2014

It's been a cold and snowy winter here in the suburbs far west of Chicago. We've seen -15 to -20 temps with -50 windchills and days where the temps didn't go near 32 degrees.

I did spread another load of mulch over the roots of my newer trees in November, and there has been a good snow cover.

But I'm wondering if there are certain species that are more susceptible to cold weather damage and cracking?

Thanks!

vince

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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I'd say Japanese maple species: palmatum, shirasawanum, and japonicum come to mind.

Dax

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 7:35AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey farmy ... what up ...

yes.. anything labeled as z6 or higher.. lol ...

or anything labeled as 5 ... that is really z6 or higher ...

lol.. what more do you want ...

it is not uncommon ... for me.. over 40 years of observation.. to understand .. that ma nature is a mean witch ... and sometimes.. things die back to either snow cover or the ground.... usually cold doenst kill a root mass ... so things regenerate if not grafted above ..

it also depends on how far you dragged it chained to your bumper .. lol ...

wind chill is irrelevant to an inanimate object ... most damage is done by winter sun... heating one side of the tree ... thawing it.. and then it refreezing an hour later.. over .. and over.. and over.. all winter long... that is sun scald... and usually its the SW side of a young tree ... where it warms in the afternoon ....

anyway ... you are a plant collector ... things die.. so what.. .you now have a new spot to try other things . or the same things again ...

ken

ps: i am more concerned about snow load damage from the storm just prior to the cold ... and i had the same weather ... 200 miles due east .... but i dont zone push.. so i am presuming.. my plants... will scoff at the cold.. as they should ....

pps: i agree on the foo foo-ness of JM's .... very variable ... but i have no fear for my tricolors .... of course.. none are recent transplants ...

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 7:55AM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

The only effect of cold wind on inanimate objects is that they cool down to the ambient temperature faster than they might during calm winds. This could cause a problem if it has been very warm, but otherwise won't. Wind chill only exists for endotherms like us, where the wind blows away the heat we generate. Since plants don't generate their own heat, its not a concern. Of course, you could also have wind burn, where the wind dries out plant materials.

As far as the OP's question, the answer is entirely dependent on the climate one lives in. Obviously, in Florida many palms and other tropical trees are pretty susceptible to cold weather!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 4:18AM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

famartin says, "Wind chill only exists for endotherms like us, where the wind blows away the heat we generate".

During the depression people used to travel (Think desert western Route 66) with a canvas bag full of water hanging from the front bumper. Since the outside of the bag was wet it cooled the water so it was drinkable. I believe the water was cooler than the ambient temperature due to the evaporation on the surface of the canvas bag.
Any thoughts? I've been having a serious discussion on this with a friend.
Mike

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 2:00PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

Plants aren't wet bags of water. Huge difference between a bag of pure water which is designed to allow water to evaporate, and plant parts which generally aren't.

Now if the plant parts are in fact wet, then this would have an effect, but once dry, then it would be near negligible.

Also note this effect is dependent on humidity. Going west through the desert, the very dry desert air would make this effect significant; in a high humidity environment, it would be close to negligible even if the parts are wet.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 2:06PM
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lkz5ia

I think broadleaf evergreens are the worse. Conifers seem more finicky when young until roots get deep enough. Pithy deciduous trees like Paulownia and Toona seem to dieback too while young.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 2:28PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Water can be cooled more or less like freon. Pressure and evaporation are super neat but the effects of the sun on tems which are not in the wind must be taken into account.

Far as trees, this middle of winter freeze has me thinking zone aporopriate plants will be fine. Now if this happens in November then them late leafed Asians like metasequoia and the acer palmatums will probably suffer worse than their zone rating would make you think.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 3:18PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I have many plants that are just fine with freezes before they harden off...happens every year with one species or another.

This year was exceptional bad as Sept and early Oct where very warm then mid and late Oct where substantially colder then usual. The buds are already set for next year so you just get dead foliage and no fall color. I still have several JMs that have brown foliage on them.

Winter sun and dry winter winds are more problematic then zone appropriate sub zero temps in my opinion.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 4:52PM
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farmboy1(5)

Wow, thanks for all the useful comments. Even from Ken...LOL

I was curious to see what the brain trust would have to say, so I have an idea what to expect or be looking for once spring comes along. I read about sunscald and figured I'd just have to take my chances. Most of the smaller trees here don't have a strong southern exposure, especially with the short days and weak sun.

So I didn't think there would be much I could do, but was curious.

vince

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 10:29PM
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edlincoln(6A)

Yes. Orange trees are very susceptible to cold weather damage.

Seriously, to help you we would need a list of the kinds of trees that grow in your yard, so we could pick out particularly cold intolerant ones.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 4:53PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

Farmitan, yes, I realize plants aren't wet bags of water. I wasn't talking plants. I was saying that because of the evaporation on the surface the water inside the bag becomes colder than the ambient temperature.
My friend says it can't go lower than the temperature it exists in. That's where we disagree.
Vince, it looks like you're about to find out which ones are troublemakers after the cold temperatures you've had so far this winter. Scout out the local nurseries and look for cold related damage also. I agree with Dax, maples are susceptible to freeze damage. I've been lucky with mine so far, but I have only had temps go down to 8F.
Mike

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 6:19PM
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smivies

"Farmitan, yes, I realize plants aren't wet bags of water. I wasn't talking plants. I was saying that because of the evaporation on the surface the water inside the bag becomes colder than the ambient temperature.
My friend says it can't go lower than the temperature it exists in. That's where we disagree."

It is possible for the water temperature to decrease below ambient temperatures in the conditions you described. However, in the case of plants in below freezing conditions, the rate of water vaporization from dormant plants is very low and the heat transfer from the ambient air is fairly good so the plant temperature and ambient temperature are effectively the same.

In active growth, it is conceivable that the rate of plant respiration is high enough to slightly reduce leaf temperatures.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 6:42PM
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