Posts Tagged ‘trees in snow’

Young oak under snowload 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.    downed tree

 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.  City Forester crews clearing damaged trees

 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.”  Broken branch

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.”





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We’re in the middle of a heavy, wet snowfall and if your tree hasn’t lost its leaves, the extra weight may cause some branch breakage.  But don’t rush out and whack off the snow – you could make things worse by wiping the snow off with a broom, grabbing and shaking the tree, or otherwise adding to the stress the wood is under.  

If you feel you must do something, gently bop the branch with the soft bristles of a broom from the BOTTOM up. This will dislodge the snow.  Gently is the way to go with this – you don’t want to flail away, bruising and tearing the branches in your desire to help that tree.

If the storm does damage, many people will try to put their trees back together again.  We do not recommend that split or broken trunks be glued, duct taped, screwed, cabled, stapled, super-glued, tied, propped, cemented or banded back onto the tree.  This will not result in the tree immediately fusing back together, á la Humpty Dumpty.  

In fact, this can lead to a very hazardous situation.  If the tree is seriously damaged, it may need to be assessed to determine if it is in a dangerous condition.  Hazard tree assessments require specifically trained experts to address this highly technical situation with potentially serious legal complications.  Many city foresters and certified arborists have the training (and insurance) to perform hazard tree evaluations. 

Pruning off the torn branches and cleaning up wound sites is the best answer for lightly damaged trees.  If the trunk bark is torn, take a sharp knife and clean the torn bark from the tree, leaving a smooth edge to the wound.  Wound paint isn’t recommended – the tree will seal that area itself, and wound paint only locks disease organisms or water into the wound.  

If you’re doing your own tree cleanup,  always put safety first.  Be cautious on ladders or when climbing a tree.  Look before you climb to see if any hazards, such as power lines, are in the way.

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