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Weather causes out of season blooming

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Tree Talk with Joanna Angle

“As I look at the blossom out of season, I hear the whispers from the old Shel Silverstein poem: ‘Anything can happen, child, anything can be.’” — Curtiss Ann Matlock

Most trees produce blossoms in early spring, but occasionally trees such as crabapple, Bradford pear, redbud and dogwood are observed flowering in fall.

In earlier times, old wives tales spread the belief that this phenomenon was an omen of misfortune. In Europe, it was thought that fruit trees flowering out of season foretold sickness or death.

The usual reason for out of season blooming is that the tree has experienced weather related stress. Stress produces a chemical change that can trigger flowering. For example, areas heavily impacted by sustained hurricane force winds have reported numbers of fruit trees blossoming in autumn.

Long periods of dry heat can prompt plants to enter a premature dormancy as a mode of self-preservation. When the drought subsides with rain fall and cooler temperatures, the dormancy breaks and the tree “awakens” and behaves as if it were spring.

Another cause of out of season blooming could be the disruption of the plant’s regular cycle by weather events, such as a late frost or widely fluctuating temperatures, which would prompt the tree to “reset” its buds to bloom later.

Sometimes dying trees will try to perpetuate their species by flowering to produce seeds.
Generally these out of season bloomers will recover and bloom again the following spring, although not as profusely as they normally would. On a positive side, the late blossoms do provide nourishment for bees, butterflies and birds, some of which are migrating.

If you have an out of season bloomer, water it thoroughly and mulch it with two to three inches of organic material, remembering that with mulch more is not better. Be sure to keep the mulch at least six inches away from the trunk.