I hope it doesn’t freeze again for the rest of 2014 — I’ve had enough. If you’ve lost a beloved plant, knowing it died a horrible, agonizing death and turned into brown goo, you might be asking yourself, “Why exactly do some plants freeze and others stay green and healthy?”
Here are strategies surviving plants use;
- Size- It might depend on the build of the plant. Plants that grow low to the ground are less likely to be exposed to environmental stresses than plants that protrude higher in the air, daring the environment to come and get them.
- Shape– Thermonasty is a plant’s ability to curl its leaves or point its needles downward to reduce its exposure.
- Anti-freeze– Super cooling agents, or dissolved salts, sugars, enzymes and amino acids in the plant’s juice do not readily freeze in sub-freezing temperatures. This trait may work hand-in-hand with dehydration.
- Dehydration– As the plant acclimates to colder weather, dehydrin proteins within the plant’s tender cellular protoplasm, help to ease the pure water out of the cell and into the more rugged spaces in between the cells where water is free to form crystals and expand without doing much harm. Also, the walls of the shriveled cells are a little denser and tougher.
- Leaf size and Additives – Conifers with needles, as well as cedars and cypress with scale-like leaves, just don’t hold much water to begin with. Evergreens add a new layer of cuticular wax on their needles during the growing season for insulation. Woody plants bolster their bark with lignin and suberin to harden themselves for winter.
Of course, none of these defense mechanisms are a complete guarantee against extreme temperatures or monstrous ice storms that physically wreck vegetation. This falls under the category of evolution, where the strong survive and the weak turn to goo.