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Blackwelder column: Be careful fixing damaged trees

Beneath the beauty of the late winter snow earlier this week lie mangled limbs of trees and shrubs.
Excessive rain, followed by ice and wet snow, was too much stress for some trees and shrubs, especially evergreens. Shade trees with weak crotch angles, decayed limbs and trunks or poorly pruned trees were also easy prey.
As expected, many Bradford pear trees were heavily damaged with the wet snowfall, but other trees that normally withstand such conditions, such as crape myrtles, were also damaged.
Evergreen shrubs were also damaged by excessive weight of the ice and snow. Holly trees and shrubs seem to have received the brunt of the snow. Most have returned to their normal, upright position with the snow melt, but some are still prostrate on the ground.In most instances, righting the plant to its normal position may suffice. However, shrubs or trees with excessive damaged or exposed roots may not recover. It may be late spring or early summer before homeowners are able to assess their damage.
Now is an excellent time to correct problem trees and shrubs and prune back damaged or weak limbs or twigs. Cut back limbs to the nearest fork or trunk when removing broken limbs more than 2 or 3 inches in diameter.
It’s best to avoid leaving stubs out of the trunk. Stubs decay easily, allowing fungi easy penetration into the vascular system of the tree. On the other hand, cutting damaged limbs too close to the trunk, damaging the bark, also causes problems with the wound healing.
Pruning paints and wound dressings generally are of no benefit on open tree wounds. In fact, research has proven that some wound dressings often cause more problems, with fungi growing underneath the dressing materials.
Use extreme caution when working on trees. Do-it-yourself tree work is hazardous; using a professional may be in the best interest of those unskilled in pruning, and particularly, felling large trees.
For more information on trees and tree damage, go to these Web sites: National Arbor Day Foundation Website www.arborday.org/; N.C. State University Forestry Web site, www. ces.ncsu.edu/nreos/forest/ index.htm; Storm Damage Assessment in Urban Areas ó USDA Forest Service, www.umass.edu/urbantree/ assesindexpage.shtml
Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Call 704-216-8970; or see http://www.rowanmaster gardener.com; http://rowan. ces.ncsu.edu or http://rowan horticulture.blogspot.com/

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