Freestanding Field Device for Winter Plant Protection


The foliage of palms and other broadleaf evergreen ornamentals can be damaged or killed during winter by a combination of cold temperatures and wind stress. Heavy mulching reduces temperature stress to roots and lower parts of the plan shoot tissues and is an effective way to protect marginal ornamentals from winter cold. However, winter winds tend to blow this protective mulch layer away unless it is retained within a wind barrier enclosure, which can often be unsightly in the landscape. Further, mulching cannot protect plant tissues above the mulch line that are exposed to the environment. In addition, palms and many ornamentals are susceptible to late winter and early spring mortality caused by bud and crown rot disease. Winter precipitation collects in the open crown cavities of these species, freezing and thawing to produce mechanical damage to tender bud tissue. This damage creates ideal growing conditions for opportunistic fungal and bacterial pathogens. In susceptible species exposed to sub-lethal cold, the majority of spear leaves are destroyed by this disease.

As a result, gardeners often use makeshift enclosures (blankets, burlap, landscape fabric, lean-to structures, etc.) to protect marginally hardy palms and other ornamentals from precipitation, cold temperatures, wind, and loss of mulch. These ad hoc solutions are less than optimal, both aesthetically and functionally, but simple, reliable, and inexpensive commercial plant enclosures providing comprehensive protection are not available. Dr. Francko’s research group developed Lexan enclosures comprised of two separate units: a base enclosure and a bonnet assembly to provide winter protection to palms and other cold-sensitive ornamentals. This enclosure design ameliorates temperature and wind stress, decreasing foliar damage and plant mortality in palms and other cold-sensitive ornamentals. The transparent material permits sunlight in winter to permit winter photosynthesis, also enhancing survival.

PATENT STATUS: 7,669,364

INVENTOR: David Francko

Contact Us: Licensing

Alicia Knoedler
Vice President for Research & Innovation
102 Roudebush Hall