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Print

Cold weather should give us a smile

February 11, 2010 at 10:54 AM

GATEHOUSE NEWS SERVICE

The Southern-based national TV meteorologists were at it again, warning the world that a cold high-pressure system was about to stretch its icy fingers down from Canada and grip the northeast in its frigid grasp, like Grant took Richmond.

And of course, they cautioned, everyone should stay inside.

The weathermen shook their heads from side-to-side, wagging a finger, saying cold weather is bad. Bad, bad, bad.

And many people buy it.

But I have a different view.

In fact, winter’s cold is a blessing.

Here in the Northeast we need the cold weather and the wondrous cleansing power it possesses to scrub every root, dead leaf, and twig; every log, crack in the bark, and spring seep; killing all the southern invasive critters of all kinds.

Some of these “nasties” we can see, a few we feel their bites, but most are sneaky and we barely notice their effects.

Without the cold weather; invasive bacteria, molds, fungus, and virus of all types and sorts would seep here on southern-spawned air currents and set up shop.

Without these arctic blasts, insects that were able to crawl, fly, or hitch a ride, would crowd their way into our native ecological niches that were heretofore protected, and feed and multiply and choke out our native species.

And without these frigid moments in January and February, invasive herbaceous plants and trees would get a toehold here and steal the light and soil from our indigenous flora and fauna.

And with the invasion would come the die-off.

Without our frosty, bitter-cold weather, many of our native plants would not be able to reproduce and continue their specie’s botanical success. 

Stratification is a phenomenon that many seeds need to undergo in order to germinate.

And without our cold temperatures, whole populations of seeds, our future forests and woodlots, would never sprout. Many seeds from ginseng to apples need the cold as much as they do the warmth in summer to grow.

These cold days should not be considered bad, in fact we could launch a good argument that they are in fact life-supporting. 

Our Northern ecosphere is guarded by one thing and one thing only - the deep, anti-bacterial scrub from the north that we call “cold.”

Our winters freeze out all the little nasty buggers, kills them, stops them in their tracks sure as Meade stopped Lee at Gettysburg.

We need at least a few days when the temperatures drop below zero on the old F-scale to do the job right.

So when the old mercury edges into the negative numbers, I’m more than a happy guy. I’m a positive guy.

“There take that, you disgusting southern slugs!”

“How do you like 10 below. That ought to freeze your slime!”

A long list of destructive and worrisome alien invaders have been brought here both consciously and unknowingly.

Some, as in the specific cases of the gypsy moth and purple loosestrife were brought to the northeast on purpose. The former, the ubiquitous and despised oak defoliator, as possible breeding stock for the silk industry, and the latter, a cattail choker, as a garden ornamental from Europe.

Others, such as the Chestnut blight and the Dutch elm disease, have had apocalyptical consequences to entire species, but were brought to the northeast as invisible hitchhikers. Evidently their origins are from the same temperate latitude, so even our artic fronts at the coldest time of the year couldn’t save the chestnut forests or the stately elms.

As the Northeast’s average annual temperatures rise, whether due to global warming or a natural weather cycle, or some combination of the two, we will notice new immigrants here.

And they aren’t all bad.

Some come and stick, and have added so much to our wooded environments like apples. The apple tree was brought here to New York State in the middle of the 1600s by the French Jesuits and given to the Iroquois, having originated in Kazakhstan, near Afghanistan.

That’s right, the apple comes from the foothills of the Himalayas. 

But though apples are indigenous to the other side of the world, they are from the same latitude and need wintertime temperatures for seed stratification.

I can deal with things from our latitude, just those critters and and plants from the south I despise.

So when the outside thermometer hits zero, nature’s thermal antiseptic is not only beating back the invasive critters from the south, it is also setting the stage for next season’s new growth in our woodlands, fields, and water.

Contact Oak Duke at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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