ST. GEORGE – In the aftermath of the snowstorms that pummeled Southern Utah early December 2013, many homeowners are looking up at their palm trees wondering what the damage is and what can be done.
“The main thing is the damage has been done and it is one of those things that only time will tell,” Mark Hodges, an arborist said. The trees that received the worst of the damage were the palms, olive trees, African sumacs and oleanders, he said.
Some businesses and homeowners can be seen wrapping their trees or covering them with blankets to protect against cold during extreme conditions.
“Fertilization may help to back out (of the damage). The other thing is wrapping, which does nothing for palm trees unless there is a heat source. Buildings and our bodies generate heat. Insulation helps to trap that heat but palm trees do not generate heat. Wrapping them won’t do a bit of good without a lamp, light or heat cords,” Hodges said.
When wrapping to prevent cold damage, the heat source should be mild enough to not damage the plant or tree from burning or catching fire.
After surveying the damage, Hodges said it is difficult to predict but estimates 20 to 30 percent of the palms may have been lost this year in the frost including the newly planted and weak palms and the Mexican fans palms.
“When we get into the teens and single digit (cold weather) it is the sustaining of those cold temperatures for extended days that really hurt us,” Hodges said.
Andy Andrews of Star Nursery estimated a similar fatality for Southern Utah palm trees and said: “Maybe if we are lucky 70 percent of the palms survived but I’m not very optimistic. I see a lot of palms with no protection and they have no natural insulation, and so unless homeowners do something about it they will have no protection against the extreme cold.”
To determine if your palm has survived, you may be able to look at the heart of the palm in the center of the tree and if the bottom has rotted and there is no visible green the tree may be lost, Andrews said. If the palm is living, no pruning should be done despite the poor appearance since the cold. If the pruning occurs and it stimulates new growth too quickly another frost may kill off the new growth. The threat of frost is still strong through middle of April, Andrews said.
“Be wary of how quickly you prune,” Hodges said. “Leave as much green even between the stalk. It will create energy for the tree.”
If you are concerned about your trees or plants since the winter you can find resources at starnursery.com, call a local arborist or go into any local nursery.
Hodges won an entrepreneurial contest at Dixie High School, in his youth, being awarded $3,000 for running his own professional tree service. That tree service is ongoing today. As his business developed, he went on to work for the City of St. George as the City Forester, obtained his degree in arboriculture (the study of trees) from Dixie College, continued his personal career and expertise obtaining the title of master gardener, receiving his UNLA certification (certified nursery man, he interprets) and so it goes. He has taught classes and seminars on plants and things of this nature, and presently serves on the City’s Shade Tree Board, among other things. His company, Arbor Tech in St. George, may be contacted at 435-632-0972.
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