Identifying and Managing Winter Desiccation in Alberta Trees
Winter weather can take its toll on your trees if they’re not properly protected from the extreme temperatures and drying winds that cause tree desiccation. Keep reading to learn more about desiccation damage and how you can prevent it.
What is winter desiccation damage?
Simply put, desiccation refers to the process by which all extra moisture is removed from a plant or a tree. Despite the amount of snowfall that we receive in Alberta, it’s entirely possible for trees to become dry and dehydrated during the cold winter months. Desiccation can result in damage to tree trunks, buds, leaves and stems as well as to the base of the tree and root collar.
What causes it?
Winter desiccation occurs when a tree suddenly loses moisture as a result of evaporation or high winds, and the ground is too frozen for the tree to be able to absorb moisture through its root system. Winter days that rapidly fluctuate between warmer and cooler temperatures can cause frost injuries and moisture loss in trees and plants. The combination of freezing cold and warm winter winds is the perfect recipe for winter storm damage and is the most common cause of winter tree damage in Alberta and throughout the Prairie Provinces.
What does winter desiccation damage look like?
Winter desiccation can cause growth abnormalities,tree cankers and discolouration. When winter desiccation has occurred, the tree bark may appear scabby and cracked and the needles may turn brown. Red belt, a type of winter desiccation damage that affects conifers on the Eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, causes large bands of needles to turn a distinctive reddish-brown colour.
Managing and preventing winter desiccation
Properly preparing your trees for winter is the best way to avoid winter tree damage. Protect the root systems of at-risk trees by adding a generous layer of mulch around their bases. Wrap young trees in burlap to shield them from high winds and insulate them from temperature change. You should also have your trees pruned, cabled and braced by one of the professionals at All Season Tree Service to ensure that they’re able to survive even the most severe winter.