The Long Lasting Impact of Severe Weather on Your Garden: "Dr. Z's" Tip of the Week

I was wondering what impact our current series of heat waves and drought would have on plants next year when I remembered a story about weather and its' effect on plants...
A few years ago there were numerous reports of the sudden death of red leaf Schubert chokecherries.  They started out the spring just fine, they leafed out and bloomed.  But as soon as the weather heated up, many were turning brown and died within two weeks.  No insect or disease problem was evident.
I decided to call the University of Connecticut at Storrs to talk to a plant pathologist to see if this was a problem elsewhere in the state.  It turns out it was a problem all over the state.  Was it some kind of new epidemic?  No.
The year before had brought us the remnants of Hurricane Irene with its' heavy rains in late August.  A series of fall storms delivered a lot more heavy rain.  The ground became super saturated with water.  The roots of most plants do not like to sit in a watery environment.  It seems the roots of the Schubert choke cherry are very sensitive to water laden soil.  Being in the wet surroundings the whole fall rotted all of the threadlike root tips with their water absorbing root hairs .  These root hairs are the structures that absorb the vast majority of the water a plant needs.  So the chokecherries lost their ability to take in a large quantity of water.
When the next spring rolled around, while the weather was still cool and moist, they did fine.  They leafed out and bloomed.  But as soon as the hotter weather arrived they became stressed out.  Not able to take in a sufficient amount of water to sustain life, they simply dried up and died.
Therefore the lesson is obvious.  Something that happened to a plant the previous year, or even earlier in its' life, can have a dramatic effect on its' present health.  When researching a plant problem always consider the plants' history.  Do not think that a problem exists only because of a triggering event in the present.

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