Willows are budding early, following temperature swings of 40 to approximately -32 degrees Fahrenheit between February and March.
Observation by Wilson Justin:
These new buds are the only ones i noticed on the walk today. I was on a four-mile walk. I will be watching as the days go by. We had 30 below during the night, only a week ago. The trail I was on parallels the Chistochina River for 3/4 of a mile, then boreal forest with some white spruce after that.
Comments from LEO Editors:
This observation has been forwarded to the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Willows (genus Salix), often begin to bud when temperatures warm up. LEO has received seven observations of early willow budding occurring in Anchorage, Bethel, Kotzebue, and Chistochina. Temperatures in the nearby community of Gulkana fluctuated widely during February and March, reaching high temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit in February and approximately -32 degrees Fahrenheit in March.
In a post submitted by Jimmy Evak in Kotzebue, Katie Spellman, Research Assistant Professor with UAF International Arctic Research Center, writes:
I also learned that the fuzz on the catkins (those soft white hairs) can actually trap heat, and keep the bud warmer than the air temperature when the sun is not hitting it (Krog 1955)! This is good news, because early flowering puts plants at a greater risk of frost damage. The pussy willow fuzz adds protection from that risk. The bad news is, if the buds have popped open and ptarmigan haven’t come through yet, they lose out on some of the nutrition of the buds (mostly lipids) which are spent by the willow plant developing the catkin. Timing is everything!
Different willow species may respond to temperature changes differently and bud at different times. For more information on the willow species in Alaska, see the the Alaska Division of Agriculture and USDA Soil Conservation Service publication, Willow Varieties for Alaska. Erica Lujan