My yuccas didn't like the arctic blast

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alluvialfan
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My yuccas didn't like the arctic blast

Post by alluvialfan » Fri Jan 10, 2014 6:51 pm

Topic is flora - yuccas.

That arctic blast thru Atlanta, Georgia, earlier this week did a number on my yucca plants. Several of the taller yuccas have fallen over; others bent in half. I trim my yuccas yearly, so there's only leaves near the top; most of the stalk is exposed. Had cold temps here before, but this time the wind chill made the temps feel like minus single digits, maybe even minus teens, and the cold latest for quite a few hours too. I guess that was just too cold.

I hope the yuccas are not dead. I'll find out the extent of the damage later, I guess. Meanwhile, when the rain stops, I'm gonna go out and transplant the yuccas that fell over.

Makes me wonder if yucca varieties in Death Valley have gone through similar experience, especially at higher elevations.

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Gowergulch42
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Post by Gowergulch42 » Fri Jan 10, 2014 7:45 pm

Even though it gets down to the 20s at Furnace Creek and the low teens in higher elevations, I haven't heard of mass springtime yucca dieoffs. I think they'll be fine, but if they're heavily waterweed, they might have suffered extensive ice damage. Alas, I am not a botanist.
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MojaveGeek
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Post by MojaveGeek » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:33 am

I would imagine that in most undisturbed environments the long lived plants would have established their hardy zones long ago, and normal variations in temperature (as opposed to long term trends) would have limited the range of a particular species. Cultivated specimens didn't make the choice and are more susceptible to infrequent extremes. I don't know, climactically, how extreme your recent weather was. I do know that I was about to make fun of a friend in Atlanta who was complaining about the cold when it was 14 in Boston, and it was only 4 degrees warmer, so I sympathized instead :)

In the Tucson area the giant saguaro cacti are limited by temperatures, mostly the effects of frost on their growing ends. There are some fairly clear limits to their range, which you see whenever you climb. Suddenly at around 4000 feet they disappear from the landscape. They get a bit higher on the south facing slopes and as they get high prefer hillsides to canyon bottoms (which get colder).

It's harder to count yuccas but I bet something similar happens.

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alluvialfan
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Post by alluvialfan » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:04 pm

Thanks Gower, Mojave for the good comments.
Single digit cold blast comes around here often in a decade. But the wind chill of minus degrees is rare.
Don't know the endemism of yuccas here. Got a couple from a neighbor 18 years ago, now I got like 75 plants. I certainly wouldn't say yuccas are like kudzu here, but yuccas are hard to kill.

There just happens to be three other yucca patches around the surrounding neighborhoods here, and I walked and examined them this afternoon. Two natural, untrimmed bunches, with the leaves never pruned, so the yucca stalks/trunks are covered with leaves. And the other is a beautiful trimmed lot in a nice garden with rocks, water fountains.

While it's certainly an unscientific "test", the two natural, non pruned bunches look just fine; didn't see any tall yucca that had fallen over. But the other trimmed bunch, there were several that had fallen over, just like my trimmed ones.

So I can speculate that the natural 'wild' yuccas (stalks completely covered with leaves) have better protection, for the stalk, from the cold & wind chill than the trimmed yuccas. I guess it's also possible that major trimming of the yuccas makes them somewhat weaker, somehow contributes to making the stalk weaker internally, and the big wind chill took its toll on a weaker plant. Or could be combination of both. Sheer speculation!

I've been severely pruning them for 12 years, and never had any die on me.

Would have to talk with a plant expert (and hope they really know yuccas).

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MojaveGeek
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Post by MojaveGeek » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:15 pm

Interesting observations! Sounds like reasonable conclusions though of course I don't know more than you!

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JesPortland
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Post by JesPortland » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:45 pm

Hey guys,

That's not so cold. I had to get over to the cabin last month in central Oregon during our cold spell. Had to experience minus 26, without wind chill factored in.

Really couldn't be outside much at all!

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