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University of Illinois Extension

Care For Your Deciduous Trees

November 20, 2013

The holiday season is often focused on evergreen trees, but have you forgotten about your deciduous trees?

Deciduous trees gain recognition of their fall color at this time of year as days shorten and temperatures fall. Some of the most noted trees for their fall color are maples with names like 'October glory'.

An often unnoted portion of the maple tree is that they often have a relatively thin bark on younger trees. The bark when left exposed to direct sunlight in the winter months can be highly susceptible to sunscald or what is otherwise known as southwest injury. The injury occurs when exposed bark on the tree warms up on sunny days and previously dormant cells within the plant become active in response to the warmth. The resulting damage includes discoloration and cracking of the bark. The injury can then leave an opening for disease or insects to enter.

Most young trees have thin bark and are susceptible. Although, most tree species develop a thicker bark as they mature. Thus the trees become less susceptible as they mature to southwest injury. This is not true for all trees. Fruit trees in the Prunus genus have a dark-colored bark as they mature and may remain or become even more susceptible to injury.

Drought stressed trees are more susceptible to sunscald injury than trees that enter the dormant period with adequate water. It is well advised to keep your trees both evergreen and deciduous well-hydrated as winter approaches.

Insulating the trunk and lower limbs with a white tree wrap can be an inexpensive and easy way to protect your tree from sunscald. The white tree wrap reflects light from the trunk and lower limbs where it is used and protects them by keeping the surface temperature cooler.

Be sure to remove tree wrap in spring or as the tree expands in growth accommodate the growth and prevent inadvertently girdling the tree.

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