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Early Spring Hard Freeze Damage

Sometimes Mother Nature Seems Cruel, the last few weeks in Los Lunas have consisted of daily temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s with nighttime temperatures in the upper 30’s to almost 50. Fruit trees were blooming, trees and shrubs were leafing out, it seemed like the winter cold was behind us. Then WHAM, Mother Nature hits the area with two nights of freezing temperatures. The first night passes with a light freeze and a low of 29º F. That morning a sigh of relief, all the plants seem OK with no leaf, fruit, or flower damage – Hooray! 

Then comes the second night with a hard freeze warning and a low of 20º F, don’t really want to go look at the plants that morning so I go to work. I think about the possible freeze damage all day. So when I get home I go straight to the yard and look closely at everything. Fruit tree foliage looks fine.
Small developing fruits are blackened as in this Harrow Delight pear

or shriveled like this Toka plum. It appears this year’s fruit crop has been lost?

Shade tree foliage shows extreme damage like in this English Columnar Oak.

A close-up view shows the shriveled, blackened leaves.

In some trees the freeze damage appears as dehydrated foliage like this Sandpaper Oak.

Vines were also damaged, displaying shriveled leaves as in this Himrod grape.                  

Redbud leaves and flowers were also damaged by the cold temperatures showing blackened shriveled leaves and dehydrated flowers.

THE GOOD NEWS is if your trees are healthy they should make a full recovery. Foliage should return to normal after several weeks. Water as needed to keep the soil moist (not wet) to support leaf out. Grapes will leaf out and probably flower producing some grapes this year.

Photos and Narrative By:
Stephen Sain
Staff Plant Physiologist


David C. said…
33F Thurs AM, icy winds all day at 52F high, then wham...26F low Fri AM. Hoping this is our last frost or freeze in the foothills, but later cold seems to be the trend in most recent years.

Sorry about your damage and fruit loss...many things limp here, maybe will come back. Neighbors' Raywood Ash blackened, Arizona Ash all fine, and redbuds all fine...must be tougher. My honey mesquites' green leaflet buds emerging just know when to wait, though...neighbor's desert willow even later.

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