Winter Damage to Trees

Typically, we think of snow as being the enemy of plants and trees. Snow (and salt) can and does compromise the integrity of an otherwise healthy tree.

Depending on the type of snow that has fallen and the time of season in which it occurs, damage to trees from snow may be seen as:

  • Bending
  • Breaking
  • Splitting
  • Uprooting


Small or young trees are susceptible to bending under the weight of snow because their trunks do not have the strength to withstand such pressures. When you find your trees are bending or drooping as a result of ice and snow accumulation, your first instinct is probably to shake the snow from the branches and or attempt to position the tree in an upright posture. This may cause breakage or damage to the circulatory system. While you might be able to gently brush the snow from affected branches, it would be advisable to first contact an arborist from Smoothie’s Tree Service to examine damaged branches for signs of weakness.



A broken or breaking tree is one that has torn wood fibers, either on the stem or branch. At times broken branches can be completely torn from the tree, or still hanging by one or two fibers. Regardless of the cause, this scenario is extremely dangerous, and must be dealt with immediately. Hanging branches can be a danger to people and property. If the trunk has a large rip or tear or if it is broken open, then you may very well need to have the tree removed. An arborist from Smoothie’s Tree Service can advise you as to whether the tree has sustained mortal damage. Each tree must be looked at individually and there are many factors to weigh.



Snow can be a contributing factor in splitting, as the weight of snow causes additional stress.

Excess snow can also damage trees and woody shrubs by bending, breaking and splitting, and causing them to fall or uproot. Trees and shrubs planted too close to a building where snow accumulates on the roof, then falls in large piles, causing an excess amount of weight on delicate branches.

A tree’s structure is also a factor in whether it will be damaged by ice storms. A tree with good, right-angle branches will have less trouble than one with narrow, more vertical branch crotches.

Splitting can expose healthy flesh and create an environment susceptible to fungus or rotting.

On the other hand, snow is actually beneficial. Snow moderates root temperatures and provides moisture for spring. Snow helps insulate the ground, which is beneficial for two reasons. First, snow is a poor heat conductor, so the temperature changes very slowly from the top layer of the snow to the bottom. This keeps the ground from heating and cooling as air temperatures fluctuate. Heating and cooling often cause the ground to heave, which can be damaging to roots. Keeping the ground temperature stable is more conducive to healthy roots.

If you are unsure, have the guys at Smoothie’s Tree Service give you an honest assessment of the trees on your property. Call today!


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