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Don’t forget about the trees in winter months

By Mark Martin

City of Salisbury Arborist

Did you know that trees fall into a couple of basic categories? Trees are either evergreen or deciduous, which may help to explain how trees deal with the cold winter.

Evergreens usually have some kind of needles and keep their foliage throughout the winter months. An exception would be the live oak or Southern magnolia which have leaves all season long.

Deciduous trees like the maple and most of the oaks shed their leaves in winter to reduce winter damage. An exception would be the bald cyprus, like the ones along Arlington Street here in Salisbury, which drop their needles in the winter.

Although evergreen and deciduous trees handle the winter cold a little differently they both have a similar strategy to keep from freezing in the winter – sap.

Sap, which acts like an antifreeze, takes a little longer to freeze than water and usually doesn’t freeze solid. Pine trees produce sap that can be super sticky and is flammable. Most hardwood sap is watery but can be very sweet like maple sap used to make maple syrup.

When sap does freeze and then thaws, air bubbles can form. This can cause trees to lose water flow, and a tree without water will suffer damage, winter or summer. So, even though trees slow down in the winter, they are still growing and will need water.

Trees can be very attractive in the winter. Some witch hazels bloom from late December through mid-January. The Japanese apricot and certain varieties of camellias are late winter bloomers, as well. Colored barks like the red and yellow twig dogwoods and coral bark Japanese maples are stunning in the winter landscape.

Exfoliating tree bark is where the bark peels off in multi-colored patterns and can be almost as attractive as the tree itself. Examples are some crape myrtles, lace bark elm, paper bark maple and Japanese Stewartia.

Some deciduous tree leaves turn brown in winter but don’t fall until spring, adding color and sound to the landscape. During the November and December months, we focus our attention on one specific type of tree, the Fraser fir or as many people know it, the Christmas tree. The Fraser fir comes inside our house, gets all decorated up and makes our house smell like the holidays.

Don’t forget that trees still need care in winter and can create a lot of beauty in our winter landscapes.

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