June 24, 2011

Blossom Bombs

Stewartia pseudocamellia is an elegant tree with white summer blooms that open to look like camellias.  My tree is young, but it does flower beautifully.

But this year it has gone all weird. 

It is covered, absolutely covered, in tight round buds.  Visitors tell me they have never seen a stewartia covered in so many buds.  And I have never seen this one so laden with them.  Last year it was flowery and pretty but it did not have hundreds and hundreds of buds waiting to open like it does this season.

But few are opening.  They start to unfold, then most drop to the ground, littering the bottom of the tree with round bomb-like balls.
 
What is going on?  The tree is healthy, growing like crazy in this wet June.  Why do plants behave so differently year to year?

My completely unscientific theory, made up entirely out of my own imaginings, is that last summer's very high temperatures and long drought stressed this new tree.  It is not dying, it did not lose branches, but it did get its forces together this spring and put everything it had into reproducing.  Everything.  Just in case another drought or heat wave hits, it wanted to be ready to keep the family tree going, so to speak.

Do you think stress caused this year's out of proportion bud production?  Do trees plan ahead for dire eventualities?  The unopened blossom bombs on the ground don't look like much of a survival strategy to me.  And I am missing the prettiest feature of this tree --- when it blooms normally in late June and early July  it can be such a sweet sight.


10 comments:

  1. Laurrie, your theory is spot on. Plants will in times of stress produce cones, fruit, flowers, etc in abundance so they can continue the species. Not sure if that's the case here but it's certainly a possibility. Although you aren't getting as many blooms perhaps you can take comfort in the beautiful bark this tree has in the meantime.

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  2. I think this tree should get a ticket for littering. Maybe there are just too many blossoms for the tree to bring them into full flower?? Nature is so difficult to understand. It would be much easier if we could speak their language.

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  3. Marguerite, you're right, it is still a beautiful tree, even with the shattered blooms.

    Lisa, I love the idea of speaking to nature's creatures and plants. How I wish we could talk to them!

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  4. Your theory sounds most likely. Trees do react to the season prior and try to reproduce themselves if having had a lean year. The wet spring surprised them I am sure.

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  5. I've heard of this before but don't know why it happens, either. I wish in times of stress I could create a few more of me just to ensure I get everything done!! Maybe they grew a bunch of buds because it's in really great soil? It will be interesting to see what happens next year.

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  6. Well done, Sherlock. :) I think your hypothesis is right on the mark. The wet weather may have signalled to the tree that it didn't need to expend the energy to create all the fruit that would follow those blooms. It will be interesting to see what happens next year.

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  7. Donna, TS, and Garden Ms. S, thanks for confirming what I suspect. At least it seems a reasonable theory --- who knows why plants do what they do!

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  8. Hi Laurrie, It is interesting theory that makes sense. I suspect that there are many causes that can effect the production of flowers. My magnolia out the front put on a terrible show of flowers this spring. The previous spring was amazing. I have no theories though. It is a mystery to me.

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  9. Jennifer, some flowering trees only flower heavily every other year. My dogwood is like that, but I don't know if magnolias do the same thing!

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  10. What a bummer. It's frustrating to get buds and no flowers. :( Are the flowers staying open long enough for pollination to take place? It could be the wet weather has brought on a fungus that's affecting the buds.

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