The ‘Polar Vortex’ doesn’t just have people getting frost bit, the trees are feeling it too!
Frost cracks are typically vertical fissures that damage trees during cold weather. Many homeowners have mistaken frost cracking for a lightning strike, as they can be long, straight, and quite visible. They usually form during periods of large temperature swings, and tend to be worse where sunlight or reflected heat warms the wood throughout the day and there are extreme lows at night. Yesterday’s sunlit and moist 43 degree start to the day may be a perfect storm matched up with the following low of 3 degrees at night.
Certain trees are typically more susceptible, with the most common being some of the thin barked species. We see a lot in Sycamore, Japanese Maple, and Cherry. The crack can originate from near an old wound or stress point in the tree – just another reason to take care of your trees. Frost Cracks are not often life-threatening in ornamental trees but can be a structural issue over time. Larger shade trees may be more susceptible to structural deficiencies due to frost cracks because of the larger amount of force exerted on the tree stem. This is more likely to be an issue if the wound is re-opened year after year, and consequently, does not heal properly.
Prevent Frost Cracking:
In the cold months, we protect the stem of the tree of more susceptible species and young/new plants. Use loose fitting, double or triple thick, burlap around the trunk of the tree – that can keep the sun and wind from doing its damage. Make sure that burlap does not touch the bark, as it can lead to more problems by holding moisture against the trunk.
Repairing Frost Crack Damage:
Maintain and promote overall tree vitality and health by having an Arborist assess the needs of your trees! Proper mulching, irrigation, and fertilizer techniques can help reduce the changes for frost cracking. When pruning the tree do not overly thin or up-raise the canopy, so as not to expose previously protected bark areas – especially on the trunk. DO NOT APPLY ANY WOUND DRESSING! (Wound dressing is no longer recommended!)
Now sit back and be content that, with our help, this year the winter won’t get the best of your trees.
(Below are some examples of Frost Crack)