LEXINGTON – It’s been a hard winter on Kentucky’s trees. Though the state hasn’t suffered a catastrophic ice storm this year, there has been enough ice to cause significant damage to both woodland and urban trees in some areas.
“It was particularly onerous on some of the pines, particularly Eastern white pine,” said Jeff Stringer, referring to an icy storm that struck the Bluegrass a couple of weeks ago. Stringer is an extension professor in the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry, part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
Though ice damage this year has not been serious enough in most cases to damage trees beyond repair and require removal, any tree damaged by ice or winds has a number of problems attached to it. An open wound can lead to disease or rot. And a common problem can pose a hazard for people and animals on the ground. Broken branches that are hung up high in the canopy are called widow makers, for good reason. Eventually wind or gravity can bring the limbs down with no warning.
Stringer recommended taking care of damaged trees as soon as possible, considering spring is drawing near.
“If you go ahead and prune off those branch stubs, you can set up a situation where they’ll start to heal,” he said. “That needs to be done fairly quickly though, because there can be some problems with doing this when you get up into mid-March or later.”
In a short time, the sap will begin to rise in trees, which can result in bark stripping off fairly easily as the tree is pruned.
“That situation stays with us pretty much from early- to mid-March until leaf-out. That’s a particularly bad time to be pruning trees,” he said.
If trees have lost major limbs and expose the main stem, he recommended removing the entire branch and cleaning up the bark around the wound.
“It can be bad enough that it can cause future rot in that tree. There’s not much you can do other than clean it up and allow that tree to heal over,” Stringer said.
UK Forestry Extension offers a website with information on storm damaged timber at http://www.kytimberdamage.net.