Apple buds are bursting into bloom as they seem almost eager to respond to recent warm temperatures. In a typical year, each bud will yield a cluster of 6 flowers. The one in the middle, the King, opens first soon to be followed by 5 surrounding flowers that open a day or so later. Well, this is not a normal year.
As flower buds have been opening I have noticed something missing this year...the King is absent. Well, you can see the remnant of what would have been King, but it seems the King has been overthrown.
Where did the King blossoms go? Weather usually tells the tale so I spent some time looking at records from last summer and the winter that finally seems to have died. While I cannot say that I have found the absolute cause, I suspect strongly that a combination of a very warm last half of November and the onset of real winter in early December is the culprit.
King blossoms have special value as they tend to produce fruits that are slightly larger than the lateral flowers that surround them. However, despite their loss, a good crop is still in the offing come autumn.
Sweet cherries seem to have a heavier than normal bloom this year. As one grower I visited this week remarked, “Isn’t it odd that the not-so-hardy sweet cherry trees are full of bloom and he hardier-than-nails apple trees are showing signs it was a long winter.”
Bill Lord, May 14, 2014