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[nafex] More Musings on Coldest Nov-Dec on Record

About the harsh November-December weather that Victoria Caron commented on:

I am new to Wisconsin, one of the areas the bore the brunt of the
record-breaking non-stop snow and cold temperatures, having moved here last
April.  The summer was cold by my standards, but the natives kept telling me
that it was fairly normal.  I’m an observer of nature and started noticing
the following:

1. At the end of July, the native trees such as sugar maples and Ohio
buckeyes began to color.  By Aug. 20, the sugar maples were in full
color—deep, flaming orange.  On a trip to Cantigney Gardens in suburban
Chicago on Aug. 10, I saw buckeyes at 50 percent of color.
2. On a trip to Peoria, IL on Aug. 23, I traveled along the Illinois River
and saw sumac, more Ohio buckeyes, sugar maples, quaking aspens and pin oaks
with color.  Along the river, the color was most pronounced.
3. I contacted peers in Des Moines, IA, Minneapolis and Jacksonville, IL and
asked for their foliage status in August.  In Minneapolis, the sugar maples
were in full color by Aug. 15, and in Des Moines by the end of August.  Jill
Vorbeck in Jacksonville reported that they didn’t have color at the end of
August, even though she is only about 90 south of Peoria.  BTW, the
Springfield-Jacksonville, IL area had less severe temperatures and less snow
than we did in the Upper Midwest.
4. By Labor Day, southern Wisconsin—from Madison south to the Illinois
border was at 33 percent of peak fall color—with all the sugar maples and
other native varieties in full color and starting to drop leaves.
5. The height of foliage season was extremely prolonged.  It seemed like the
trees were holding on to color longer than normal.  Widespread drop did not
start until Oct. 1.  The sandhill cranes, ducks and geese were gone by the
last week in September.
6. In my fruit garden, the cornus mas, two kinds of grapes and 4 kinds of
blueberries started producing fat fruit buds in mid-July.  By mid-August,
buds were pronounced and fully hardened.  By mid-September, the plants
experienced their first hard freeze, and instead of coloring their leaves,
they dropped them.  Ones that did remain on the plants browned, instead of
reddening.  They remained on the plants until the first heavy snow Nov. 16.
I have 33 roses—from hybrid teas to rugosas to antiques—and none of them
produced red foliage, which they should have done.
7. We had our first snow of Oct. 6—just flurries, but it started a pattern
of low temperatures day and night.  At this point, non-native trees—those
introduced to the area via the nursery trade, etc—started to color their
leaves.  Up to this point, they were the only ones without colorful fall
8. The snows started in the first week of November, and all the non-native
trees, including ornamental maples such as Japanese ones and hybrids popular
in the landscape trade, were caught with foliage still on them.  In fact,
the Shumard oaks (planted in the neighborhood by developers) and a gingko
across the street still retain their colored foliage.  I don’t know if this
is normal, but it seems like the trees got caught short by the season here,
because their internal triggers are geared for warmer climates.

My points are that the native trees were solid indicators to the coming
weather—normal or abnormal.  Introduced species, including fruit bushes and
trees, are not.  What do you think?  And, what did you observe?
Doreen Howard
Janesville, WI, Zone 4b, still with a couple feet of snow on the ground