Expose your skin to freezing cold and wind, and it'll become dry and chapped. Trees and shrubs react similarly to winter's onslaughts, only they can't come inside for hot chocolate and moisturizer.
When leaves transpire, their surfaces release water into the atmosphere. In moist soil, the roots conduct more water to the leaves than the leaves release, so the plant stays hydrated. If water is pulled from a plant's leaves faster than the roots can replenish it, the leaves and stems dry out. That's desiccation.
Wind, strong sunlight, or low humidity occurring along with dry or frozen soil can desiccate a plant. If drying conditions persist without the plant's roots getting a sufficient supply of water, all or part of the plant can die.
Plants can desiccate any time of year, but in North America, they're most likely to do so in winter, when roots can't draw moisture from frozen soil. Symptoms are yellowing, browning, or curling needles or leaves; split bark; blasted (dead) flower buds; or a limp, tired look to the foliage. Most prone to desiccation are evergreens, especially broadleaf types such as rhododendrons, azaleas, boxwoods, hollies, pieris, mountain laurels, and leucothoe.
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