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Dormancy: Protection & Survival

People tend to think of winter as a time of rest, but dormancy is not so much about rest as it is about protection and survival. At the end of a plant’s growing season, cooler temperatures and less sunlight signal plants to move the sugars and carbohydrates created through photosynthesis from their leaves down to the roots and use them as winter nourishment. That way they can’t be damaged from cold, frost, wind, lack of sunlight, lack of moisture, etc. This is also a time for seed disbursal for many plants. Seeds drop or get blown away or even eaten and carried away, and the winter conditions allow the seed to safely move and get settled in a new location before using energy to germinate. Seeds remain dormant until the best conditions are available to them: temperature, moisture, and oxygen levels must be just right for germination to occur.

At the Ecotone nursery, while some of us are dreaming of warmth and rest, winter is a busy season for us. It’s the perfect time to take cuttings, collect and stratify seed, and get all our plants in place and ready for when they are signaled by nature to wake up and get back to work. Doing it now ensures protection for the plants we take cuttings from and allows us to get those fresh cuttings potted and in the perfect environment for when Mother Nature yells “ACTION!”

Spring planting is common for this same reason. On our stream and wetland restoration jobs, we want our plants tucked into their new homes while they are dormant so when the plant wakes up, it bursts into action shooting its roots deep into the soil enabling them to grow strong so they can provide shade, food, and protection to a variety of creatures who depend on them.

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