Asked January 15, 2013, 11:23 AM EST

If buds are formed, can they withstand very low temperatures at any time during the year?

Salt Lake County Utah

1 Response

It all depends on how cold it gets and what species it is. Plants have a number of ways they protect themselves from freezing (and its freezing that causes the damage, not just cold). They can form antifreeze-like compounds and store them in the water in their cells, they can embed proteins in their cell membranes to protect the membrane structure (membranes tend to get leaky when the cell contents freeze, and that's bad), and they can let their watery contents dehydrate and concentrate, which also has antifreeze-like effects. So that is how buds and other living tissues are protected against freezing, and different plants do these better than others. As you can imagine, plants from warm climates don't do much of this because they don't need to, and it takes energy to do these things so a plant wouldn't do them unless it needed to. And a non-cold-adapted plant can't just start doing it when we plant it in a cold climate. The ability to do such things is genetically determined, so it can't change just because it is planted in a cold climate. Use our Tree Browser to find out about the cold-hardiness of different trees -- www.treebrowser.org.