In October last year, Storm Ophelia arrived in the UK. That marked the beginning of what has turned out to be a pretty tiresome winter for the cork oaks and carob trees.
Storm Ophelia was a complete novelty to me. Usually when hurricanes arrive in the UK they are cold and wet. Ophelia was hot and dry. Although it was October, the temperature rose above 20C with winds consistently above 50mph and gusting to 90mph and more.
The results of this on the cork oaks especially were severe scorch of the mature leaves and complete desiccation of all the growing tips: and there are a lot of growing tips on the cork oaks in autumn.
The story was similar with the carob trees, but they have suffered even more from the poor weather that has beleaguered us this winter.
Like the cork oaks, they had a lot of young growth at the start of the autumn (typical of many Mediterranean species – they have a spurt of growth in spring, sit out the summer, and then have another growth spurt in the autumn). As with the oaks, Storm Ophelia sucked the life from those fresh young shoots. But the carobs are still in pots and were, therefore, less able to stand the vagaries of the weather. It has been too cold, too dark and too wet for too long for them and they aren’t looking great.
However, although this sounds very negative, I am hopeful that most of the young trees are going to get through this. The cork oaks have sturdy root systems and, I hope, enough reserves to pull back from.
The carob trees, although they look pretty dire, do have plenty of potential new growth points and even a few new shoots springing up from low down on their stems.
Incidentally, I do leave the “dead, dying and mo(u)ldy” bits on the carob trees. I have found that cutting them out just spreads the dieback further and faster. By leaving them, provided the plant is strong enough, it should be able to compartmentalise the decay and stop it spreading too far: which,if my memory serves me well, is pretty much what they taught us at college – CODIT – compartmentalisation of decay in trees/timber.