Spruce & Cedar Burn

What to Look For

The primary symptom of winter desiccation is reddish discoloration of evergreen foliage above the winter snow-line. Winter desiccation occurs when the parts of the tree above the snow-line are exposed to warm dry air and sunlight when the ground is still frozen. The needles begin to transpire moisture, but roots are unable to replace this moisture and needles turn brown as a result.  Damage is more common on exotic species or open-grown trees than native, sheltered trees. Trees generally recover, but if damage is extensive or occurs over several consecutive years, it can result in severe dieback or whole tree mortality.

Prevention & Treatment

Buds are not generally affected and trees usually recover within a few years. A burlap covering can be effective in protecting trees from winter desiccation, provided the fabric is attached to wooden poles and does not come into contact with the foliage. Alternatively, rough up the snow around the south and south-west sides of the tree throughout the winter. This reduces the sunlight being reflected on the tree.