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Bud Break in Firs, Pines and Spruces (3 Replies)

Posted January 26, 2018 at 4:26 pm

I am trying to understand which break first and last in the spring between Firs, Pines and Spruces? In a relatively typical spring, how many days/weeks difference are there in bud break between? Finally, within each group, are there species that tend to break earlier/later, and if you know, are we talking days here? Weeks? This is a question I have asked a number of foresters and nursery people lately, and researched on the internet, and I have come up with literally little to no information! Do you know? I live in Zone 5, but I will take any information anyone has on this general subject! Jim B., Pleasant Hill, IA

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Posted January 27, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Hi Jim, speaking from plants I personally observe in Washington state (USDA Zone 8a), conifers push in the following order:
larch – fir – pine – spruce
Now, the really hard question: I would suggest that it’s a question that’s not possible to answer. The tempo of bud push is really weather dependent. Where I am, we’ll often have a week in February with temps in the 60sF. Buds will start swelling and candles lengthening, then abruptly we’re back in the 30s and 40s and everything screeches to a halt.
The biggest risk is to subarctic and Himalayan species. In their natural habitat, once things start warming up, the plants push and don’t stop. Then a frost or freeze will hit the new growth and stunt them for the entire season. If this gets repeating over several years, the result is a really weak conifer.

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Posted January 29, 2018 at 9:54 am

Yes, nature is awesome in her response to environmental circumstances. Let’s hold the temperature (and sunlight) variables constant, and suppose there is a prolonged stretch of temperatures in the 60’s … With Larches breaking first, what are rough observations of how many days (?weeks) later the firs break? Then about how long to the pines? The spruces? Are we talking days, or weeks for all four to finally finish breaking. I wish I had paid attention to this myself in the past!

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Posted January 29, 2018 at 10:05 pm

Sorry Jim, but you’ve reached limit as to how far I can speculate. I live in Washington state, a place where 3 months of temps in the 60s with constant sunshine has never happened.

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