Winter Injury – Part 3: October 2019

Spring Freezes
Once spring growth has begun, a late spring frost can cause damage to de-acclimated woody stems, blossoms, and new shoots. Frozen, succulent, new tissue turns flaccid, appears water soaked, and withers within a short time. Though symptoms resemble blight diseases, freeze injury appears suddenly after a hard frost, while diseases such as bacterial fire blight, juniper blight, and pine tip blight are progressive over time.

Root Damage
Root tissues apparently do not acclimate to temperatures much below freezing and can be killed or severely injured by soil temperature below 15°F. This is especially true for shallow rooted plants. Fortunately, the presence of mulch, leaf litter, or snow cover insulates most soils sufficiently to prevent soil temperatures from falling much below freezing. Plants with frozen roots may wilt and decline after growth resumes in the spring.

Breakage From Snow & Ice
Snow and ice storms cause damage by bending and breaking branches. Multi-stemmed trees like arborvitae and junipers are the most prone to damage. To protect these plants from limb breakage prior to winter, tie branches together loosely with strips of cloth or coated twine. Remove in early spring.

The branches of many hardwoods, such as Siberian elm, maples, and birch, may be seriously damaged in ice storms. Improper removal of ice or snow from the tree or shrub might increase damage. Heavy snow should be removed gently before it freezes to limbs and branches. Removing ice encased on branches can cause additional damage and should not be attempted. Instead, allow ice to melt off naturally.

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