If you're worried because you've seen cherry trees blooming in downtown Pittsburgh, magnolia buds about to burst, and tulip leaves coming up in the garden, put your mind at rest.
Mike Masiuk, director of the Penn State Extension in Allegheny County, said that there's a cherry tree cultivar that blooms in both fall and spring, and it's not unusual to see tulip foliage or magnolia blooms in a mild fall. He said that the growth that looks premature and vulnerable will make it through the winter and perform as expected in the spring.
Abrupt change, however, with temperatures going from mild to zero very suddenly, can damage trees and shrubs, said Masiuk, because the process of going dormant is gradual. But even then, according to Masiuk, it's usually only the ends of the branches — the very last to go dormant — that suffer.