How does drought affect our plants?

Logan Faller
How does drought affect our plants?

How does drought affect our plants?

When you step outside and look at your ground, you may notice some canyon sized cracks. At this moment, the first week of December 2022, plants are extremely stressed due to drought, especially shade trees and evergreens. A drought stressed plant's leaves lose water faster than their roots can replace it, resulting in the interference of the plants growth and sometimes desication.

In the growing seasons, you may notice a plant wilting, this is usually a result of lack of moisture. Without adequate water, photosynthesis and transpiration are reduced. Transpiration is the movement of water through plants, taken up by the roots and moved via the xylem and phloem (which act kind of like arteries and veins in humans). This process is essential to keep plants from overheating.

Not only does excessive drought affect the top part of the plant, but more importantly it affects the roots. Long periods of drought can result in loss of root hairs. These are tiny, delicate hairs that are extended from the main feeder roots. They are responsible for the majority of water uptake in the top foot of soil. When these root hairs dry out, the plant loses a large majority of its water uptake capacity, which often increases the chances of canker, wilt, and other diseases. Even when the drought subsides, it can take months or even years for these hairs to redevelop

Its not just the growing seasons that drought affects, dry winters can also be problematic. As we saw in the most recent winter, there was a lot of cold temperatures and wind, but very little moisture. This caused the drying up, or desiccation of many plants, especially evergreens. Not only was there a lack of moisture in the ground, but without any ice or snow protection on the branches and buds, there was no chance of them surviving the harsh winter. In some cases it took many months for us to see the results of this damage.

In the end, we as humans can only do so much to help our plantings. We can't control the weather, nor should we, and plants will always be subject to it. All we can do is educate ourselves and provide what we can and let the leaves fall where they may.


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