Why Do My Trees Split in the Winter?

Why Do My Trees Split in the Winter?

Gloved hands are seen pruning a tree in winter.Winter weather can be hard on trees. Oregon’s storms and freezing temperatures often wreak havoc on branches and trunks. When tree bark splits because of the cold it’s called frost cracking. Freezing can norstart a problem or make an existing one worse.

How Does Freezing Weather Lead to Cracks?

Frost cracking happens when temperatures change quickly from extremely cold to warm. Icy nights followed by sunny days create conditions that cause bark to crack. A cycle of freezing and thawing puts stress on the tree because the changing conditions cause the bark to rapidly expand before shrinking again. The expansion can split the bark. Often it is the south side of a tree, the side that is warmed by the sun, that cracks.

Why Are Damaged Trees More Vulnerable to Freezing?

Trees that suffer from frost cracking often have an existing wound. For instance, a tree that has been incorrectly pruned or has been damaged by pests, is more easily damaged when freezing temperatures hit. Why? Because any small wound can fill with water. When the water freezes, it takes up more space. The ice forces the crack to get bigger.

Are Oregon Winters Cold Enough to Cause Frost Cracking?

The Pacific Northwest has relatively mild temperatures. Higher elevations and colder areas of the region are cold enough to cause damage, however. Even around Portland or other lower elevations, frost can cause damage. Nearly every winter includes a period of freezing temperatures. When moisture from the wet weather settles into a tree’s wounds on, the stage is set for a bigger fracture.

Which Trees Are Prone to Splitting?

Nearly any tree can be damaged by cold. Certain types of trees are more susceptible. Trees with thin bark, such as some fruit trees, are more vulnerable to damage. Young trees are also more likely to suffer from the cold. Trees that have experienced uneven growth can develop cracks that are then vulnerable to frost. For instance, dry weather can slow growth. If the dry spell is followed by wet conditions that promote growth, the tree bark may crack. Oregon suffered from dry weather last summer and this fall has seen plenty of rainfall.

Most trees will recover from split bark if they receive the proper care. It’s also possible to prevent cracking and other types of damage with the right year-round care. Removing damaged branches helps your trees stay healthy. Regular pruning can also keep you trees in good shape.

If you have a tree that needs pruning, contact the experts at Inexpensive Tree Care for a free estimate.

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