Winter Snow and Ice Damage To Trees by Candice Miller

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Here in the northwestern corner of Illinois, we got about 15 inches of snow this past weekend. This amount of snow definitely causes some road and travel problems, but what does that much snow mean for trees and shrubs? It means there is a lot of weight on the branches! Especially this particular snow, which was very wet and heavy.

Heavy snow and ice storms can cause quite a bit of damage by bending and breaking branches of many trees and shrubs. Multiple leader, upright evergreens, such as arborvitae and juniper, and multiple leader or clump trees, such as birch, in particular can frequently break branches from the weight of ice or snow. To prevent that in future years, prior to winter, tie branches together loosely with strips of cloth or coated twine, making sure to remove the string in early spring.

When heavy snow builds up on weak branches, it 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.

As always follow the proper pruning techniques on your plants and use proper pruning to eliminate multiple leaders and weak branch attachments, which will reduce snow and ice damage. Particularly important is the removal of any weak, narrow-angled, V-shaped crotches. Avoid late-summer pruning that stimulates new, tender growth and reduces the supply of nutrients available to the plant through the winter.

Photo by Candice Miller