Why are zombie shows so popular on TV? Is it because everyone admires Dick Cheney’s life story? I think it’s because the people who play zombies don’t really have to act. All they have to do is talk unintelligibly, walk like penguins, and get their heads blown off. Easy gig. But what about trees and other plants? Can they come back from the dead?
This is an important question to consider, because so many people are asking me now. After the brutal winter of 2014, many trees, shrubs, and other plants show no signs of life. They have no leaves. They look like lifeless sticks. Are they dead or just sleeping? Will they wake up next year? Or should you cut them down and blow their brains out now? As always, Grumpy is prepared to answer these serious questions.
Question: It is late June and my tree still has no leaves. Do trees sometimes skip a year of growth and leaf out the following year?
Answer: Trees skip a year of growth as often as you skip a year of breathing. Trees need leaves to make food. Without leaves, they starve. Any tree that hasn’t put out a leaf by now is deader than peace in Iraq. Cut it down. Then blow its brains out.
Question: My crepe myrtle has no leaves on the top, but green growth is sprouting from the bottom. What should I do?
Answer: First, email me your SSN, date of birth, and bank account password. This is extremely important. Next, decide whether you can wait a few years for your crepe myrtle to grow back. The winter cold killed it to the ground. To get it to grow back, cut off all of the dead trunks at the ground. Then select 4-5 well-spaced sprouts at the bottom that are growing up and out to become the new trunks. Cut off all others at the ground. For this first year, remove any side branches that grow from these sprouts. Thereafter, prune according to the directions given here.
Question: If there are no zombie plants, are there vampire plants?
Answer: Yes. These would be parasitic plants that take water and nourishment from their plant hosts. Two common parasites that come to mind (forgetting currency traders for a moment) are mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum) and dodder (Cuscuta sp.). The former is the evergreen plant with white berries so prized for forcing a kiss from someone much more attractive than yourself at Christmas. You often see it in the tops of leafless trees like oaks in winter. Dodder looks like a tangle of yellow, orange, or red strings wrapped shrubs and herbaceous plants. Three things separate plant vampires from their human counterparts. One, they don’t turn into bats. Two, sunlight doesn’t kill them. Three, they don’t belong to the Westboro Baptist Church.