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Does Ice Do Damage to Trees?

When people think about what can do damage to trees, heavy winds and rain may come to mind, or maybe even some sort of pest or disease, but not many people would think ice can do damage to their trees. The truth of the matter is, it can. In fact. ice-covered trees can be very dangerous.

While icicles are beautiful to look at, constant ice could be damaging to your trees. You get an increased amount of ice on your trees both when you have ice storms and when it snows and the temperature dips below freezing, causing snow to freeze. Ice will not only hurt a tree, but it can kill it and create problems in the surrounding area as well.

Does Ice Do Damage to Trees

Before you examine your tree, you need to beware of a few safety concerns. First of all, if your tree is close to power lines, do not touch it. You never want to get involved if you’re talking about a possible interaction between electricity and water. You need the proper tools and expertise to deal with a tree in this kind of condition, which is why a certified arborist should be called to see if your tree can be trimmed back to remove a dangerous branch.

Additional, if there are broken branches that haven’t yet fallen, do not risk climbing the tree. While we understand you may be trying to alleviate the ice pressure from your trees, trees in this condition are unsafe, and you could end up falling and having a much bigger problem on your hands.

For lighter snow, this may seem silly, but it’s a good idea to go outside and brush even light amounts of snow off of your trees. This way, the snow won’t become ice, and you can prevent what may become an issue.

Sometimes, an ice-damaged tree is beyond repair and simply needs to be removed by a professional, but if the tree is small and the damage is minimal, there are some remedies for you to do yourself that can help bring your tree back to full strength and avoid the hassle of spending money.

Again, if there are safety concerns, spend the money just to ensure everything goes smoothly as you don’t want to risk injury. However, if the situation is safe, you can remove the broken limbs with pruning shears. Again, only perform this maneuver on smaller limbs as larger limbs can cause additional problems when felling.

It’s important to remember that broken limbs cannot be repaired, so they need to be removed. It’s best to cut them back to the next adjacent branch. Also remember to never leave a branch as a stub, because that encourages rot and decay. If you do this, the tree may ultimately die anyway, leaving all the work you did as a waste of time.

With that in mind, also be careful not to over-prune. You want to leave as many tree limbs as possible. Removing more limbs than you have to prevents the tree from being able to properly perform photosynthesis, which is necessary to sustain life.

Once pruned, the tree may look a little uneven, but don’t fret. After a few seasons, it should bounce back to it’s full, vibrant shape once again. However, if you have any concerns, contact your local arborist who will be able to provide additional direction and perform any needed trimming adjustments.

Now, we all want to save our trees in cases like this, but if the trunk is broken, it’s time for the tree to be removed. That’s when you have to call a professional to come and do work. Some trees have main leaders that extend all the way to the top of the tree, and when the trunk fails, the tree will fail too. That’s when you know it’s time to remove and replant.

If you do have to remove a tree, consider replacing it with a stronger species, such as crape myrtle, bald cypress, or live oak. If you have any questions on which tree makes sense for your environment, consider the conditions. If you simply replace the tree with the same one, then you could run into the issue once again. 

Did you know there are steps you can take to protect your trees if an ice storm is in the forecast? Small multi-leader trees can be wrapped with carpet or another type of strong cloth. Once spring arrives, you must remove the wrapping so you do not inhibit any growth. You can also invest in tree cabling and bracing, which involves the installation of flexible steel cables in the trees to reduce the stress caused by high winds, heavy snow, or substantial foliage. This isn’t something you should do on your own, as a certified arborist would have to be called in to set this up in the proper manner.

Your best bet, if ice and heavy snow is an issue where you live, is to be smart with which species of trees you have.

If you inherited trees from a previous owner and they are not the most weather resistant, then you may need to prepare to replace them sooner rather than later. Or, as mentioned above, you can contact a certified arborist to protect against tree damage. This individual can perform all of the necessary pruning or wrap your tree to protect it from Mother Nature’s wrath.

Ultimately, do not try to do anything yourself if there’s a safety risk. Instead, contact the professionals who will be able to protect your trees before a storm or perform necessary steps after one.