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Because winter can be rough on your trees, a spring inspection can help prevent damage in future seasons.

Why You Should Start Looking for Winter Tree Damage

April 1, 2015

The following blog post has been adapted from the "Look for Winter Tree Damage in Spring" Davey contributed to icma.org.

Spring is a great time to inspect your trees for both obvious and not-so-obvious problems.

Vertical cracks are a sign of sunscald. The cold, bitter winter months can cause both types of issues.

In spring, trees should be leafing out and flowering consistently. Obvious signs of damage from winter might be dead branches, which will have no new leaf tissue and will appear barren compared with the remaining limbs of an otherwise healthy tree.

Boxwood trees and shrubs are particularly susceptible to “winter burn” or desiccation, which is when leaf tissue dries out because of cold winds. You can help prevent winter burn by providing a plant with moisture in late fall so it stays healthy through winter.

Trees or shrubs near where snow was piled to melt throughout winter might have excess moisture at the roots. Yellowing shrubs in spring are often a telltale sign of too much water at the roots.

More subtle signs of winter deterioration in spring include winter drying, which might cause browning of some evergreen leaf margins and tips. Winter sunscald can lead to vertical cracks in the bark of a tree.

Other potential signs of winter damage include poor leaf color, discolored bark, fungal growth, oozing sap, abnormal bud appearance and leaf size—all of which could indicate root, leaf and needle injury.

Look for signs of winter damage in spring. 

When inspecting your trees, start at the bottom and move up looking for the following signs:

  • Hollow trunks
  • Small holes in the trunk
  • Decay, such as cracks, soft or crumbling bark, and fungal activity
  • Shallow pits in the bark
  • Dead twigs and branches

If you notice signs of winter damage, contact your local arborist for a free consultation.

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