Alnus maritima (Marsh.) Muhl. ex Nutt. is a large shrub or small tree with potential for use in managed landscapes. Because the three subspecies of A. maritima are indigenous only to areas with mild winter temperatures (USDA hardiness zones 7a and 7b), knowledge of their cold acclimation and cold hardiness is vital if they are to be used where winters are more harsh. Phenology and depth of cold hardiness were assessed by collecting stem samples seven times from 25 Sept. 2000 to 23 Apr. 2001, subjecting the samples to cold temperature ramping, and determining the lowest survival temperature (LST) via the tissue discoloration method. Samples were collected from indigenous plants of the three subspecies and from plants growing in a common garden near Ames, Iowa (USDA zone 5a). Results indicated that some plants from all three subspecies can survive midwinter extremes as low as -80 °C; that plants grown in Ames achieved a greater depth of cold hardiness for most of the winter and were more uniform in cold hardiness than plants growing in warmer native sites; and that the three subspecies did not differ in phenology or depth of cold acclimation. Results of field trials with plots of 150 plants each installed in three northern hardiness zones (USDA zones 5a, 4a, and 3a) supported these conclusions by showing survival of all 450 plants. We resolved differences among subspecies by rating the percentage of stem tissue survival for each plant in the field plots. Subspecies maritima, from the northernmost provenance (the Delmarva Peninsula), showed the least stem death across all three plots (3.9% tissue death), followed by subsp. georgiensis from northwestern Georgia (10% tissue death), and subsp. oklahomensis from southern Oklahoma (12.8% tissue death). Our results suggest that low temperatures should not limit the use of A. maritima in areas as harsh as USDA zone 3a. Selections based on cold hardiness may allow the use of A. maritima in areas with even colder winters.
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