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Cherry Tree Under Stress: Tree Following, August 2016

August 12, 2016

cherry under stressMy part of Maine is officially in a “moderate drought;” it has been many weeks since we had any significant (1” or more) rainfall. I imagine that some of my garden blogging friends in the west would scoff at the idea of this as a drought, but I garden in what  is normally a water-rich region of the country. The biggest employer in my small, rural town is in the business of extracting and bottling our local water for export (Poland Spring water).

We had several weeks of dry weather last year, too, but it followed a winter with record-breaking snowfall amounts. When we got very little snow this winter, no one complained; we felt we deserved an easy winter after last year. But then a winter of low precipitation was followed by a warm dry spring, which was in turn followed by this warm dry summer. The river near my house is running lower than I ever remember seeing it before, and many people’s wells have begun to run dry.

So how is my little cherry tree (Prunus pensylvanica) faring in these stressful conditions? Although two young forsythia transplants nearby are looking sadly wilted, the cherry is standing up tall, and its leaves do not look desiccated. A closer look does reveal a number of leaves that are turning brown and falling, a sign of a tree protecting itself by going into dormancy. I also note that, although I saw two clusters of blossoms on this tree in June, no fruit ever developed.

cherry tree leaves

All-in-all, though, I am pleased with how my little tree is doing. This native cherry tree seems better equipped to handle moderate drought conditions than do my non-native forsythias. Its response of cutting off water and nutrients to a small proportion of leaves seems similar to what I’m seeing in mature oak trees growing nearby.

Happily, while I was writing this, a thunderstorm moved through, bringing heavy downpours and about .5” of rain in a few minutes. More showers are forecast during the next several days. I am hoping that this is the beginning of a new weather pattern and that my thirsty plants will finally get some of the water they need to thrive.

Tree following is hosted by Pat English at The Squirrelbasket. Visit her blog to learn about the trees other bloggers are following.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. August 13, 2016 8:26 am

    Jean, I’m happy to see your native cherry is surviving despite the drought. Until recently we have been in a severe drought this year in SC. It is really tough to see plants struggling, but it makes the case for planting native species that fair well during extreme conditions in whatever area of the country you reside. Here’s to more rain! K

    • August 14, 2016 8:47 pm

      Kathy, Although the rain we had this week brought some relief, we need lots more to make up the deficit. I’m hoping for lots of Camelot-like overnight rainstorms. 😉

  2. August 13, 2016 12:51 pm

    Hooray for the downpour! Although I’m not fond of thunder and lightning!
    I suppose native plants wouldn’t get very far if they weren’t suited to the country’s “usual” weather 🙂

    • August 14, 2016 8:49 pm

      Pat, Thunderstorms are pretty normal occurrences here during the summer, although they only occasionally get severe with high winds and hail. Over the years, I have gotten good at counting the seconds from flash of lightning to peal of thunder to estimate how close the lightning is.

  3. August 13, 2016 1:24 pm

    Hello Jean, we’re in “high summer”, the driest time of the year too and even the garden is beginning to look a little dry. The high water table in our garden means most plants haven’t noticed, but young and establishing plants need a little help. There’s no rain-relief in sight yet in the forecast.

    • August 14, 2016 8:51 pm

      Sunil, I have been watering the new plantings regularly all summer, but I have hesitated to water the rest of the garden. Like everyone in my rural area, I get my water from a private well, and I’m leery of using up precious well water for the garden. It was a great relief to get over an inch of rain here during the past three days.

  4. August 13, 2016 3:40 pm

    I’m glad you got some rain, Jean, and that your little cherry tree is holding its own under the drier-than-usual conditions. I’ve learned that definition of “drought” is relative. Here, an entire summer without rain is entirely normal – what isn’t normal is year-after-year of miserly winter rains. Hopefully, your thunderstorm signals an end to your dry period. There’s a very slight chance of rain here next Friday but I’m not laying any bets on it.

    • August 14, 2016 8:56 pm

      Kris, Our pattern this year has been one I know you experienced last winter — rain in the seven-day forecast that seems to evaporate by the time that day arrives. Very frustrating. I think the inch+ of rain we got this week may have moved my neighborhood from the “moderate drought” category to the “abnormally dry” category. But we still need about 5 inches of extra rain to make up our deficit for this year.

  5. August 14, 2016 4:34 pm

    Hi Jean. I’m relieved that you received some rain. After watching the forecast here in Florida, it looks like more might be on the way as the terrible rain over Louisiana begins to drift northeast, around the edge of a high pressure system that’s funneling the hot air up the East Coast. Weather is amazing — too much of one thing in one part of the country, and not enough in another.

    • August 14, 2016 8:58 pm

      Kevin, The rain was a great relief, but the jury is still out on whether we’ll get any of that rain coming up the eastern seaboard. Our pattern this summer has been a continuation of the pattern that gives us a snow drought in El Nino winters — high pressure areas coming down from Canada that force the low pressure areas out to sea south of Maine. But as I watch the extreme weather events on the news, I’m reminded of just how gentle our weather generally is here.

  6. August 16, 2016 4:44 pm

    what do people do ‘when the well runs dry’?
    Where do they get water then?

    • August 16, 2016 5:47 pm

      Diana, There are two kinds of wells used in this region: Dug wells are shallower and draw from the ground water, while drilled wells are deeper and draw from the aquifers. I have a drilled well. Most of those who experience problems have dug wells. When the water table gets too low for the depth of their well, they can wait for rain or call a well-driller and invest in a drilled well. Right now, the well drillers are so busy the wait for their services can be several months. While waiting, people have to buy bottled water or rely on the kindness of friends and relatives with drilled wells who can give them jugs of water.

      • August 16, 2016 5:58 pm

        there is a queue for boreholes here too – but that is to avoid paying for metered municipal water to use in the garden.
        Daunting to rely on bottled water!
        And our dams are half empty in desperate need of more rain, but the spring flowers are here already.

        • August 16, 2016 6:10 pm

          Most rural towns in Maine don’t have any municipal water service; each residence has its own private well.

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