Our recent cold mornings resulted in late freeze damage to many trees and shrubs. This damage to newly emerging shoots and leaves follows a few hours of temperatures below the freezing mark. Damage is usually characterized by wilting browning of new growth, particularly leaves and needles. It may take a few days, or until temperatures begin warming again, for damage to become evident.
The photos below reveal some late freeze damage in southern Indiana, shared by a concerned tree owner. It is often dramatic and can cause concern for homeowners and landscapers. Fortunately, the damage is largely aesthetic, and plants will quickly resume growth.
What can you expect? Typically, the damaged or dead leaves will fall and new leaves will emerge, although somewhat slowly. A reduction in growth and leaf size can be anticipated as well. Just remain calm and wait for the tree to recover. If the tree was vigorous going into winter and had a good store of carbohydrates, it can withstand an environmental hit such as these cold extremes.
If branches or stems don’t show any evidence of bud or leaf emergence, lightly scratch the bark with your thumbnail. If the green cambial layer is revealed, the tree is likely just slowly emerging from dormancy. If there is no green tissue evident, it is likely dead. Prune out the dead branches to a living later branch and assess the plant.
Question: What are these pretty green flower shaped growth spots? Will they damage the tree?, Got Nature? Post, Purdue FNR Extension
Iron Chlorosis of Trees and Shrubs, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Tree Diseases: Oak Wilt in Indiana, The Education Store
Tree Diseases: White Pine Decline in Indiana, The Education Store
Mechanical Damage to Trees: Mowing and Maintenance Equipment, The Education Store
Surface Root Syndrome, The Education Store
Tree Appraisal and the Value of Trees, The Education Store
Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources