Driving to work this morning revealed the impact of this heavy, wet snowstorm. Young trees, especially oaks, are bending under the weight of a foot or more of the white stuff. Larger, older trees remain upright – thanks to stout trunks – but are lowering their branches as the flakes continue to fall.
And some trees are losing limbs.
“It could have been worse, much worse,” said Ernie Wintergerst, Forestry Technician with the City of Longmont, as he climbed from the bucket of a cherry picker used in trimming a damaged Silver maple. “That freeze a couple of weeks ago helped by making most of the trees lose their leaves. If we’d had a typical October, the trees would have still had leaves and this would have been really bad.”
Citycrews are busy trimming and clearing hazards from roadways and power lines, he said. “There’s plenty for us to do today.” If you spot a damaged or downed tree on public property, notify your city forester’s office so they can put it on the schedule for maintenance.
NEVER APPROACH A DOWNED LIMB ON A POWER LINE. Call your power company to report it.
Caring for trees on private property is the responsibility of the owner but if your trees are overloaded from the snow there’s no need to panic, says Alison Stoven O’Connor, Horticulture Agent with Colorado State University Extension in Larimer county.
“Because they hold snow, evergreen trees are a priority, but anything that hasn’t shed its leaves, like the oaks which don’t lose theirs until mid-winter, are cause for concern,” she said, “some people are suggesting you grab the branch or tree and shake it, but that might add to the stress on the wood. A better approach is to use a broom to very carefully knock off snow.”
“If your tree has broken branches, the best thing you can do is to get the wound as neat and clean as possible,” Stoven O’Connor says, “take a sharp knife and remove all the jagged edges of bark around the tear. Don’t bother with wound paint – the tree will heal the wound.”
If possible, trim branches to leave a clean cut, making sure you follow the three steps for proper pruning (which prevent bark tears):
1. Twelve inches away from trunk or from where you want the prune to be, make your first cut on the underside of the branch, sawing upwards through one-third of the branch.
2. One-inch outward from the undercut, saw downwards through branch. At the point of no return, the weight of the branch will snap the limb, but the undercut will stop bark tearing of the tree.
3. Make your last cut just outside the branch collar, the spot where branch and trunk join. Often, you can see a slight swelling at this point.
Find a diagram of this pruning method at PlantTalk Colorado.
“What we learned in Windsor after the tornado was that trees with 50-percent damage or more will probably not survive,” said Stoven O’Connor. “If you’re not sure if your tree is a goner, contact an arborist to assess it. Those with less damage should be cleaned up, then have close attention to care over the winter. Water them if we’re dry, and keep them healthy.”