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Ice-coated Tree Buds

1-5-15  ice-covered sugar maple buds 170Recently freezing rain coated trees with ice and the sight reminded me that when a freeze is threatening fruit trees in the spring, just as buds are breaking, orchardists often opt to replicate this phenomenon by starting a sprinkler and coating their trees with ice. Flower buds that are starting to open can be extremely temperature sensitive, suffering damage when it goes below freezing even temporarily. As counter-intuitive as it seems, a properly maintained layer of ice works well to protect opening buds from the cold. When water freezes, heat is produced at a rate of 80 calories per gram of water (the heat of fusion). If water is continually applied to the tree and consistently freezes, it is possible to maintain the buds around 32 degrees F., thereby protecting the flowers within them. (Photo- sugar maple terminal buds)

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7 responses

  1. Jill Trudeau Marquard

    Greetings, Mary! I have met you at the Hartland Nature Club. I live in West Lebanon near Hanover and used to live in Hartland. Anyway, may I please have a copy of the column you wrote about the deer carcus in West Lebanon and how bears, coyotes, crows, etc., fed on it past bears’ normal hibernation time? Sorry to ask, but my neighbors Bill and Ellen Bailey told me about it, and I haven’t been able to find the column. I most recently saw the mother and three large cubs in our yard at 9 Gilson Road on Dec. 31. Wow!

    Happy New Year, Jill Marquard

    January 5, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    • Hi Jill. The deer carcass was my 12/29 Naturally Curious blog post, but I mostly talked about how coyotes are bigger scavengers than predators, of deer. That’s amazing that the bears are stil out…I would give anything to see them or to photograph fresh tracks, so if you do see them again, and felt like calling me, my number is 802-436-2525. With this cold weather approaching, I’m assuming they’ll be in their dens before long!

      January 5, 2015 at 7:45 pm

  2. Erin Donahue

    Stephen, WOW. This is gorgeous. If I were a real photographer, maybe I could capture such a thing.


    January 5, 2015 at 2:24 pm

  3. Connie Snyder

    Who would think that freezing produces heat? I first encountered this explanation in Bernd Heinrich’s fascinating WINTER WORLD, pp. 10-11 and 28. Thank you for this graphic example (and to the dear friend who lent me the book…)

    January 5, 2015 at 2:49 pm

  4. Very cool fact to know!

    January 5, 2015 at 3:02 pm

  5. kate reeves

    I had just been thinking about that. That the ice coating could also protect buds from
    wind desication or minus degree temperatures?? With the arctic cold coming, I was
    glad to see the ice covering the trees yesterday but now gone with rain. At least we got
    some new snow cover. Stay warm. kate reeves

    January 5, 2015 at 3:10 pm

  6. Peggy Longley

    Fascinating, thank you so much for your postings. I enjoy the winter ones even more than the other seasons because nature seems even more miraculous in these harsh conditions (and I have more time to concentrate on these postings! THANK YOU, MARY!

    Peggy Longley North Country Farm 86 N. Sandwich Rd. Center Sandwich, NH 03227 (603)284-6294

    January 12, 2015 at 3:23 pm

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