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Avoiding Ice and Snow Damage to Trees

Ways to Ice and Snow Proof Your Trees


Icicles and frozen autumn leaf hanging at ..
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Brittle tree species normally take the brunt of heavy icing after a winter storm. Many of the elms, most true poplars, silver maples, birches, willows and hack-berries are tree species that simply can't handle the weight of the ice slurry coating limbs, persistent leaves and needles. Southern yellow pines usually take a beating during major icing events in and on the edge of their natural range.

Brittle trees tend to be fast growers. Because of their desirable growth potential and the prospect of making quick shade, "weak" trees are sought out and planted by homeowners. Planting these trees will only exacerbate the problem of limb breakage.

Fast-growing trees often develop weak, V-shaped crotches that easily split apart under the added weight of ice. Because these trees usually take some damage from storms throughout the year, internal rot and decay (some of which you cannot readily see) lead to weakened trunks and limbs.

Multiple leader, upright evergreens, such as arborvitae and juniper, and multiple leader or clump trees, such as birch, are most subject to snow and ice damage. Smaller trees need to be wrapped and larger trees with wide-spreading leaders should be cabled.

    Tip 2- Brittle species should not be planted on sites where heavy ice and snow is a problem. Brittle species include elm, willow, box-elder, hackberry, poplar and silver maple. Ten Trees To Avoid

    Tip 3- Avoid planting species that hold their persistent leaves into late fall and early winter where early ice storms are common.

    Tip 4- Wrap small multi-leader trees. Secure with strips of carpet, strong cloth or nylon stockings two-thirds of the way above the weak crotches. Remove wrap during spring to avoid binding new growth and girdling limbs and trunk.

    Tip 5- Begin an annual pruning program when trees are young. Prune dead or weakened limbs and excessive branches from crowns. How to Prune a Tree

    Tip 6- Hire a professional arborist for particularly valuable or wide-spreading large trees, to strengthen a tree by installing cabling or bracing on weak limbs and split crotches.

    Tip 7- Favor "conical formed" trees like conifers and young sweetgum in your landscape. Species with less branch surface area, such as black walnut, sweetgum, ginkgo, Kentucky coffeetree, white oak, and northern red oak are preferred

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