We may not always hug them, but we do love our trees.
Trees are an aesthetic aspect of any landscape, but they're more than pretty faces. They provide shade and keep buildings cool, they clean the air of toxins and they produce much of the oxygen that we breathe.
They're also one of the most costly components on our properties.
Consequently, we need to understand what threatens them most during the winter - namely wind and snow that bend, uproot, break and split many trees each year. Falling limbs and uprooted trees can cause property damage and be a liability for property owners.
While young trees typically do not sustain serious damage, mature deciduous trees not only can be seriously damaged but have problems that might not be obvious.
Be wary of cracks and splits in the limbs. Broken limbs pose grave threats to people and property. Often, split limbs may be hanging on by a thread, so to speak, and these "hangers" may not be so readily noticed.
A little more wind or snow falling on them can send them crashing. If there has been some obvious damage to a tree, it's wise to look for more closely for hangers.
Cracked limbs can also be difficult to see. One telltale sign that a tree limb has cracked is that the limb bends down from the snow and doesn't pop back up to its original position. Often cracked limbs can be detected because they will rest on a limb below.
Will the branch live or die?
Most cracked branches will continue to live. In spite of the cracks, nutrients will still move through the branch to keep offshoot branches and leaves alive. The tree will try to callous over the wound to "heal," but the bark will not grow back together and the limb will never return to its previous state.
Like Humpty Dumpty, it can't be made whole again, and that is the problem.
From this point forward, a cracked limb will remain a hazard due to untreatable structural weakness. Future snow loads and/or wind can cause it to break at any time. If that does not happen, continuing growth will add more weight to the limb and continue to stress it to the breaking point.
Split trunks, large branches
High winds and snow loads can also cause tree trunks or branches to split vertically, or even uproot the tree. As with broken limbs, splits can be hazardous and need to be dealt with right away.
Simply sawing off a limb behind the break won't be aesthetically pleasing or healthy for the tree. That's why it's critical to call in a qualified arborist or maintenance professional to remove broken limbs so that they are cut properly for the long-term health of the tree.
If you have large deciduous trees, consider having them inspected to determine whether you have hazard limbs. Play it safe and remove snow and wind-damaged limbs before they become a liability.
Becky Garber is member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact her at 970-468-0340.