Shortly after the first few frosts each fall, I receive inquiries about a phenomenon that occurs to many lawns, especially thick dense bermudagrass lawns. After the first killing frost weird camouflage patterns often appear across the turf canopy.
While many homeowners become alarmed that their lawns have contracted some horrible disease overnight, this phenomenon is nothing to worry about. Your lawn has not been invaded by the military or some terrible insect or fungus. It is simply the results of the first light frost or two of fall.
Heat is absorbed into the soil during the day and radiates off at night through the dense canopy of leaf blades, stolons, etc., into these somewhat zigzag patterns. The small difference in temperatures is enough for frost to develop and kill leaf tissue in spots where the temperature has dropped low enough but not in others.
Generally the denser and thicker the turf canopies, the more likely for this phenomenon to occur. Once there is a hard freeze with a widespread heavy killing frost the camouflage patterns will disappear into a typical brown winter colored turf and your lawn will return to a healthy green next spring.
Published November 7, 2011
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org