Cold weather damages southern Utah palm trees

Posted at 6:55 PM, Jan 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-02 20:55:34-05

ST. GEORGE, Utah - An extremely cold winter in St. George has many of their signature palm trees looking a little ragged, and some are left wondering if they’ll recover.

“They look pretty sad,” says St. George resident Patreen Drewe. “Our neighbors planted some and they’ve actually lost them.”

A couple of weeks of freezing temperatures in December proved more than the tropical trees could handle. Star Nursery outdoor plant specialist Sherrie Fox said most palms actually do have a cold threshold of below freezing, but those single digits pushed many beyond their limit.

“That’s just one or two nights here or there,” Fox said, talking about the cold limits.  “This was sustained cold for about a week, so think how you would feel standing out there in it night after night after night.”

The effects can be seen just about anywhere you look in St. George, but Fox said not all is lost. In fact, we won’t know for several months whether that cold spell in December did some major damage to these palm trees.

“Probably by mid to end of April,” Fox said. “You should see a nice little green frond coming right up the middle, that’s stable when you pull on it. That will tell you your palm survived.”

Those who bundled up their palms avoided major damage. Even now, protecting the heart of the tree will prevent future frostbite, but Fox said no one can say how many are actually dead.

That’s good news for residents who love those palm trees and are lamenting their perceived demise.