Ready or not — most of us are ready — spring has all but arrived even though the official start isn’t until 12:30 a.m. next Sunday.

Ready or not — most of us are ready — spring has all but arrived even though the official start isn’t until 12:30 a.m. next Sunday.
Unseasonably warm temperatures were the first signs, followed by ornamental trees flowering or budding over about the past week. That’s at least a couple of weeks earlier than normal, according to Adam Bale, who’s been district forester for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Neosho office since September after previously working out of the Cassville office.
“It seems like most of our cherries and dogwoods are in bloom right now,” he said Friday. “Some our willows are starting to leaf out already. A lot of our maples are beginning. They’re in full bloom in Springfield; not so much in Neosho, but buds are breaking out.”
Bale, originally from Branson West, has spent most of his life in Southwest Missouri. While this year’s early start to spring isn’t unprecedented in his experience, it’s still earlier than usual.
“This early in March is pretty rare, but it does happen,” he said.
Trees already are in blossom are ones that typically come out first, Bale said, but they’re at least a couple of weeks earlier than normal.
In the past, Bale noted, early flowering and budding often is followed at some point by frost. Even though frost can hit flowers and buds pretty hard, seldom do trees die as a result, he said.
Serious damage to trees normally won’t occur unless they are subject to frost after resuming growing over multiple years, according to Bale.
“If it’s a hard freeze, mostly likely the buds would be compromised as far as health and wouldn’t flower after a hard freeze,” he said in defining a hard freeze as when the dew point is at freezing temperatures for a long period of time. For example, some damage can occur if temperatures don’t warm above freezing the next morning and frost doesn’t go away.
If the dew point is high enough that weather conditions are dry, temperatures that drop below freezing won’t damage trees, Bale said, because there needs to be moisture that freezes on flower petals or leaves and affects the cells.
Ornamental and flowering species usually start growing earlier in the year and are more affected by temperatures. Trees such as oaks, hickories and other species usually aren’t tricked into starting their growing season early as unseasonably warm temperatures do not affect them, he said.
Warm temperatures affect grass, Bale said, so can start growing early if the weather warms up as it has lately.
“I’ve noticed a lot greener lawns,” he said, adding frost can affect growing grass. “It can be impacted more than flowering trees as dew stays closer to the ground.”
Light frost on grass usually isn’t an issue unless walking or rolling something on a lawn during a frost, Bale said. In that case, affected grass might turn brown in spots, but grows back fairly quickly.