If your trees look like they are dying over winter, stay calm and wait before you call a professional tree service. More likely than not, your trees are doing exactly what they should be to make it through the coldest time of year. Curious about how trees endure extreme cold, snow, and ice? The key to tree survival in winter is what goes on beneath the surface.
All About Adaptability
Animals have adapted to the coldest months of the year by hibernating, growing thicker coats, or even migrating to warmer climes, but trees do not have that luxury. Just imagine if trees packed their trunks and headed south for the winter! While trees do stay rooted in one place, that does not mean they are completely vulnerable to cold weather. Rather, they have developed a strong defence to withstand temperature changes, winter storms, fluctuations in moisture, and even less sunlight.
For example, deciduous trees, such as white birch, trembling aspen, or balsam poplar, lose their leaves in autumn in preparation for dormancy, a state that is similar to hibernation for animals. Trees also slow down their metabolism and growth, all in an effort to conserve energy over the long, cold winter.
While dormant, trees do not need the same amount of water, sunlight, or nourishment to stay alive as they do in the warmer months. Along with losing leaves, trees may also develop terminal buds, which wait patiently to grow when the temperatures are more, well, temperate. The buds serve as a sort of place marker, indicating where new growth should begin when dormancy ends.
Another major modification that trees make in colder climates takes place under the many layers of the bark. Just think of a tree trunk like a straw that moves water from the root system throughout the plant, all the way to the leaves. If that water were to continue flowing throughout the plant, it could freeze, and the ice crystals may damage the plant cells. When preparing for dormancy, trees get rid of excess water to prevent that freezing. Trees also produce more sugar to make their sap which acts similar to an anti-freeze. The extra sugar can lower the freezing point of the sap, acting as another layer of insulation for the tree.
Not all trees go dormant in winter; case in point are coniferous or evergreen trees. Rather than leaves, these trees have needles and flexible branches, hence the term softwood. Their thin, waxy needles offer a layer of protection from cold and ice, and function with less water than a deciduous leaf requires. In addition, the limbs, branches, and trunks of coniferous trees may be more flexible. While a deciduous tree may fall or break branches in a snow or ice storm, for instance, an evergreen is likely to bend under the weight of the snow, bouncing back into place after it melts.
Evergreens do shed needles, but since they can photosynthesize when conditions are good in late winter or early spring, these trees are constantly shedding and growing new needles. They also continue to grow roots in wintertime, even when the ground is frozen. When the weather starts to warm up, coniferous trees are good to go, without needing to expend a lot of energy to regrow leaves that were lost in the fall.
When You Need a Professional Tree Service in Winter
If you are concerned about any of your trees this winter, do not wait until spring to call Martin’s Tree Service. We offer services throughout the year to maintain the trees on your property. Contact us after a winter storm for emergency tree removal or in spring to ensure the health and beauty of your trees as the growing season begins.