WILMINGTON — Many flowering tree species around the city have bloomed after strong winds from Hurricane Florence defoliated their branches in what City Arborist Aaron Reese called “a second spring.”
Species like Bradford pears, tulip magnolias, and certain cherry trees typically flower in the spring before they put out leaves, according to Reese, and many of these species have experienced a post-Florence bloom.
“A blooming tree has the natural response to flower first and then it will put out leaves to carry on and create as much food as it can — store food, store energy for the winter,” Reese said. “It’s pretty simple. It’s funny when you see it, but it’s just a natural response. It’s basically a second spring, just the natural cycle of those particular trees.”
From Reese’s understanding, this particular tree behavior is not as uncommon as many would believe, taking into account a plant’s natural bloom cycle.
“It just takes an extreme event like a hurricane that more or less completely defoliates the tree to cause it to happen,” Reese said.
Reese believes that the expenditure of the tree’s stored energy this late in the year will take a toll on all tree species next spring and summer. Although flowering species may experience a less than profuse bloom cycle this spring, the real danger lies in trees’ decreased energy supply.
“This spring we’ll probably see a lot of trees that will flush out — they’ll leaf out — and will start to die off because they’ve exhausted all of their energy supply. Some will leaf out and make it through part of the summer before they start to die off, as a result of expending that much energy,” Reese said.
Although the city will let nature take its course this spring, according to Reese, homeowners should properly prune their trees — “get out anything that’s broken, anything that’s busted or cracked” — and water the trees deep into their roots, even after the heavy rainfall from Florence and earlier in the summer.
“I know we’ve had a lot of rain but it has dried out some in between. You don’t want to over-water but you do want to be sure they are properly watered,” Reese said.
He advised residents to even water in the winter, especially if the winter is dry, as long as the water won’t freeze; when the weather warms approaching spring, “having your trees on a good deep watering cycle and proper fertilization targeted specifically for the trees will go a long way.”
As for the massive oak and pine trees seen completely uprooted around the city after Florence, Reese attributed the phenomenon to the oversaturation of the trees’ root systems.
“The massive amount of rain that we had on the front side of the hurricane,” Reese said, referring to the record rains the Wilmington experienced earlier in the summer. “And then the ground getting completely saturated like it did: that much pressure from the wind on the top just brings the whole thing up because the roots don’t have that hold, that friction in the soil when it’s saturated like that.
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com