Scout trees and shrubs for signs of damage



May 4, 2021 - 10:01 AM

Oak trees outside the Kansas Statehouse. STEPHEN KORANDA

The impact of our cold winter may be noticeable on evergreen trees and shrubs in the area. People often tend to believe that the browning they see is a disease. Actually, it is winter damage or winter kill. Some trees and shrubs that looked fine last fall are now showing symptoms of the tough winter. 

Winter damage is common on evergreens due to desiccation injury. Desiccation injury happens because evergreens continue to lose moisture during the winter months. This is especially true on windy or sunny days. When the soil freezes, the plant’s roots cannot absorb moisture. Put these two environmental conditions together and the foliage exposed to the sun and wind will eventually dry out and die. Damage is most often seen on the south and west side of evergreens. Winter damage to ornamental trees and shrubs will be seen as dieback of twigs and branches to complete death of the tree. 

The best time to assess the extent of the damage and potential for recovery is mid-May. By this time, new growth should have developed. If not, then the branch or tree could be dead. 

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