Well, it appears that at least one of my fruit trees is confused by this last week of warm weather. The tree in the photograph above is a 4-in-1 pluot purchased three years ago from Raintree, that turned into a 3-in-1 pluot after one of the grafts failed. The tree is a combination of Splash, Emerald Drop, Flavor Grenade, and Geo Pride, and I do not know which one of these was the graft which failed.
If you look closely, you can see that one of the grafts is in full bloom. This is not good. There is nothing else blooming now to pollinate it. Also, there are very, very few bees out right now. In December, I saw a honeybee in some of the salvia nemerosa that have miraculously continued to bloom throughout the winter. But that was it. And I feel confident that our mason bees are not ready to hatch. Further, a hard frost may destroy the flowers or any emergent fruit.
The bottom line is that unless we do not get another really hard freeze and/or snow, I will probably not get any fruit from these blooms this year. I strongly suspect that we will get some hard, cold wintry weather before the winter is over this year. (Since late November, we have had pretty consistently cold nighttime temperatures into the high 30s and low 40s, but we have not had that big snow or ice storm or temperatures in the teens or 20's, as in years past.)
This pluot has been the first tree to bloom for the past few years. However, last year, it did not start to bloom until the very end of February, as you can see in this post - Blooming Pluot. And last year was earlier than usual!
I cannot remember which of the varieties this fruiting graft is because I did not mark them before someone in my household removed the tags - I have learned from this mistake. Geo Pride requires 550 hours of winter chilling, but I have not seen written anywhere when its bloom time is. Here is a nice photo of a Geo Pride - photo. Flavor Grenade requires 600 chilling hours and blooms in "early mid-bloom season" - photo. Emerald Drop requires 700 chilling hours and blooms in "mid bloom season" - photo. Finally, Splash has a chilling requirement of 650 hours and blooms in "mid bloom season" - photo.
Given that the other three are mid-season bloomers, my guess is that this is the Geo Pride that keeps blooming early. So why is this tree blooming early? From what I have read, this early bloom can results from several factors - a variety that is an early bloomer (different varieties have different profiles for when they bloom each year in comparison to other varieties); how many chill hours the tree requires; and whether there has been a break in the winter weather (warmer temperatures can fool a fruit tree into breaking dormancy; additionally, I have read that temperatures above 60 degrees during dormancy can even subtract chill hours from our chill hour totals). Because we often have warm interludes during our winters in Texas and the South, our fruit trees can often be fooled to prematurely break dormancy if they are early bloomers; consequently, it is often beneficial to plant mid to late blooming varieties in the South.
As a side note, I am somewhat surprised that the Minnie Royal and Royal Lee cherries, which have very low chilling requirements (200-300), were not the first to break open their blooms. They are reported by Dave Wilson Nursery to bloom 10 to 14 days before Bing, and cherries are typically early season bloomers.With their low chilling requirement, I feared when I planted them that they might bloom too early and then lose their blossoms with unexpected late frosts. So far this year, they are not blossoming. This is the first full spring following planting of these low chill cherries, so I am still learning about how they will perform in my garden.
The photograph below is a close-up of the pluot first blooms: