Some Wyoming Trees Budding Again Due to Warm Weather; Horticulturist Worried About Damage

The warm fall has caused some trees and plants in Wyoming to bud again and that could cause serious damage.

Ellen Fike

November 23, 20213 min read

Budding branch scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The relatively warm weather Wyoming has seen this fall has had an effect on the trees and plants in certain areas: they’re budding or blooming again.

And while it may seem nice to have these small symbols of spring pop up in November, the founder of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that this budding can actually damage trees, with cold weather on the horizon.

“If you watch Don Day’s weather forecasts, he’s saying December is going to be a real winter coming really quick and really hard onto us,” Shane Smith told Cowboy State Daily. “With that weather, these opening buds can be damaged. It probably won’t kill a tree, but there will probably be some die back.”

Smith attributed the fluctuating temperatures in Wyoming on the La Niña weather pattern. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the La Nina weather pattern results from cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that impact global weather.

“Don has talked about how during a La Niña winter, you can have days on end of relatively warmer weather, but it’s also notorious to flip and trigger an almost overnight influx of arctic air,” Smith said. “That’s what he’s calling for in early December.”

Photo taken in Gillette by Irene Bucher Daly

Early blooming can be extremely stressful for trees if temperatures are mild one day and then suddenly dropping the next. The new growth will be shocked by the sudden freeze.

Some buds, such as fruit and flowers, might not even grow again in the next year, as they have exerted all of their energy in appearing early.

“Luckily, although not all trees and woody plants, many plants and trees may have what are basically ‘secondary buds,’ that are basically their backup plan for when there’s damage to the main bud,” Smith said. “That, quite often, can save the day. It may not save the look of the tree and there could be some potential damage, but at least there’s some other way they can come alive.”

Smith encouraged Wyoming residents with trees or plants that are budding to water them occasionally, especially right before a big temperature drop.

However, he did discourage overwatering, as that could encourage more buds.

“Cheyenne really takes the cake in terms of a tough climate, since it only gets around 13 to 14 inches of moisture a year” Smith said. “It’s a tough place to grow trees. I found a diary entry from a woman that was written about nine years after the city was founded and she said there were only 12 trees in the whole place.”

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Ellen Fike