Do we underestimate trees' intelligence sometimes? Overwintering and breaking-buds season

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This is the winter-spring equinox I've paid most attention to ever — for obvious reasons. I live in MN, and I think it's quite incredible how smart these trees have been acting lately. Unlike many others, all the trees (wild, garden, and potted alike) have stayed dormant for the most part. In fact, the only green I see are from the conifers...

When I read through the forums, I see, "It's not a good idea for trees to ever see anything above 40-Fahrenheit for more than week," since buds will break if so. But as I've mentioned, that's not been the case. Even trees which I recently purchased from Brent (who runs his great operation in California) are still dormant. There was a heat wave which made temperatures rise as high as 60-Fahrenheit, and the weekly average was about 50-Fahrenheit. Still, all the trees are dormant. How come they're so good at telling when it's time to wake back up? I also know it's not purely circadian-rhythm based, since I'm keeping some trees in the garage. Given, before the heat wave, there was a cold spell that made temperatures dip as low as -20-Fahrenheit (yes, kind of scary!). Maybe that was the source of these trees' knowledge? It seems like they take "moving averages" of their surrounding temperature before deciding to break dormancy (and a few other tricks, it seems).

I'm not complaining. I'm might happy they've stayed dormant, since that means I don't have to worry about whether or not their unhardened leaves will get damaged by cold winds. (Temperatures have dipped to high 20s, which is maybe tolerable, but not ideal for them)

What have been people's experiences? Sometimes, I think we don't give our trees enough credit. I guess there's something to be said about "free-range childcare"!
 
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Forsoothe!

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You might be changing your tune in the coming weeks when the trees in the garage begin to leaf out a light green in spite of snowing outdoors. You'll soon learn how to do the bonsai two-step, -without singing happy lyrics.
 

Wulfskaar

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This is very interesting to me as well. I'm freaked out at how a tiny little spec of a seed can become a massive tree, with all it's mysterious abilities. Genetic code is over my head and it all blows my mind.
 

penumbra

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You might be changing your tune in the coming weeks when the trees in the garage begin to leaf out a light green in spite of snowing outdoors. You'll soon learn how to do the bonsai two-step, -without singing happy lyrics.
You bring it upon yourself. I suppose we all do to a greater or lesser degree. Almost all of my plants stay outside and take care of themselves. I do have a number of tropicals though. But this thread has already taken a path away from what I believe was the intent of the OP.
 

bwaynef

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I recently read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. If you want an introduction (without full explanations, mind you, research paper citations aplenty) to the intelligence of trees, I'd recommend it. I'm not sure I was convinced on all accounts, but its definitely provoked some thoughts.

Chapter 23 A Sense of Time said:
In many latitudes, forests drop leaves in the fall and leaf out in the spring, and we take this cycle for granted. But if we take a closer look, the whole thing is a big mystery, because it means that trees need something important: a sense of time. How do they know that winter is coming or that rising temperatures aren't just a brief interlude but an announcement that spring has arrived?
 

Forsoothe!

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Chapter 23 has all the wisdom of my right shoulder which can tell when winter is coming, too...:rolleyes: The author is obviously neither a gardener nor weatherman.
 

parhamr

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Yes, absolutely — there’s more than just “how hot is it!” From what I have read each of these are individual signals that certain species of trees will watch…
  1. What the temperature has been “lately” (I have no clue what time range this is)
  2. How many “chill hours” there have been in dormancy (e.g. duration of time below a certain temperature)
  3. How long daylight lasts
Some species watch all three. Some trees (oaks?) are more focused on length of daylight than temperature. Item 2 is especially related to seed stratification. I believe this is a synthesis of information from Michael Hagedorn, Ryan Neil, and a book, “The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.”

This year we had a roughly average winter and my trees are now generally waking up. I do not yet have any leaves except on some prunus and rose family species. Last year my trees were ahead of this one by about 4–7 weeks because the 2019–2020 winter was so mild.
 
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You might be changing your tune in the coming weeks when the trees in the garage begin to leaf out a light green in spite of snowing outdoors. You'll soon learn how to do the bonsai two-step, -without singing happy lyrics.
Ah yes, forgot to knock on wood... Luckily, I have a grow light that might be enough to keep them okay :) But two-step might have to be the move!
 

leatherback

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I think trees are just as smart as we give them credit. They do track length of day, temperature and time since fall. And draw thei conclusions. Yet spring is almost 4 weeks earlier now than 30 years go. We have spring flowers in Feb every once in a while, where it used to be the coldest month in winter. It does bring plants problems
 

Rivian

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"How do they know that winter is coming or that rising temperatures aren't just a brief interlude but an announcement that spring has arrived?"
Moisture, temperature, light and their effects on hormone levels would be my guess. The tree doesnt have to be more conscious than a rock for this to work
 

Woocash

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Chapter 23 has all the wisdom of my right shoulder which can tell when winter is coming, too...:rolleyes: The author is obviously neither a gardener nor weatherman.
Wow, you can tell from that one little snippet all about the author and the wisdom of an entire chapter?

It is not your shoulder that can tell when winter is coming, but your brain. Trees do not have a brain.
 

Rivian

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You can switch out conscious for intelligent in my statement. But feel free to enlighten me about what is meant here by intelligence, @leatherback :)
 

leatherback

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But feel free to enlighten me about what is meant here by intelligence, @leatherback
I see absolutely no need. As long as "mankind" does not really understand consciousness and intelligence I see no need to discuss it here. From the underlaying content in this thread an intelligent reader will understand what is meant.
 

Graft

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It's not just seasons that plants detect. It amazes me how some climbing plants will actively grow towards a support. Or how forests use the fungal network to "communicate". Amazing stuff really. There is so much that we are ignorant of.
 

Rivian

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I saw a documentary about regional vegetable variants and how one guy just in a few years adapted tomatoes to his dry stony hillside soil. So that I found quite amazing. Probably a combination of natural selection and the plants re-activating old genes. I really like the variety of food you can achieve this way, and of course you dont have to bulldoze the hillside and import soil, you can to a large extent work with what you have and keep it more natural
So yeah plants can be quite adaptive and its as if they had all sorts of contingency plans
 

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