After periods of cold winter nights and bright sunny days, you may begin to notice frost cracks in your trees. These cracks can be several feet long and a few inches wide, and the colder the temperatures, the wider the cracks are prone to be. But what are these frost cracks, can they hurt your trees, and is there anything you can do to prevent or treat them? Keep reading to learn what you can do about this cold-weather tree condition.
What Is Frost Crack?
The term “frost crack” refers to the vertical cracks created in a tree’s bark and wood. Water expands as it freezes. It is tough for trees to tolerate the expansion that results from the freezing water inside its wood and the contraction as it melts. If the tree bark is not able to withstand this expansion, a crack is likely to occur. Younger trees with thin bark are often more susceptible to frost cracks. Fortunately, a tree with one of these cracks is in no immediate danger and can live for several more years.
Frost Cracks or Sunscald?
Freezing water inside tree wood is just one of the causes of tree bark cracking. You can also see cracking tree trunks due to a condition called “sunscald.” In late winter or early spring, the warm afternoon sun shining directly on the tree trunk can cause the tissue to break dormancy. If these sunny afternoons are followed by a freezing night, the tissue and cells inside the tree can die. You may notice strips of bark peeling off that tree when this happens. Dark-colored and smooth-barked trees are most vulnerable to sunscald.
Can You Fix Frost Cracks?
If you are looking for a way to fix a cracked tree trunk, there is nothing you can do to “repair” this crack. The best thing you can do is keep the crack clean to prevent infection and leave it open. In most instances, the tree attempts to heal itself by forming a callus along the crack. Because the crack provides an opening into the tree bark, it could become an entry point for pests. You should monitor the tree closely going through the season for evidence of pests.
Preventing Frost Cracks in Your Trees
Once frost cracks appear, another crack could form in the same location. You can prevent a recurrence by wrapping the tree trunk in tree wrap for the winter. Remove the wrap as soon as temperatures warm in late winter or spring. If you leave the wrap on too long, it provides a convenient hiding place for insects and other disease organisms.
You can also protect your tree by planting evergreen shrubs around the trunk. Shrubs help insulate the trunk from temperature extremes and shield it from strong afternoon sunlight. High value trees can also benefit from fertilization to help the overall health and combat any damage from frost cracks. However, if you believe that your tree’s damage is severe, contact a professional for an inspection before more damage can occur.
Scientific Plant Service Is Your Go-To Source In Landscape Healthcare
Scientific Plant Service, located in Baltimore, is a privately owned corporation, chartered in Maryland in 1957 by Frank J. Burke. We started as a full-service Arborists specializing in the care of shade trees and ornamental shrubs, but today we are a Lawn Care company that is a huge part of the community. From aquatic environments and snow management to deer and mole control, SPS has services tailored specifically for your lawn and landscape.
We offer services in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia, including: Harford, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Howard, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Talbot, Queen Anne’s, Calvert counties in MD, as well as Loudoun County, Fairfax County, Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church in VA. For more information, contact us online, or call us at 410-321-0970. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.