January 03, 2023

Tree Recovery After Heavy Snow

Written by TreeUtah
A tree in the snow with a broken branch A tree in the snow with a broken branch

Utah residents are no strangers to the duality of snow: delightful and inconvenient, beautiful and sloppy, whimsical and destructive. After a heavy snowfall, it's inevitable that trees around town will lose some limbs. How do we know when a tree can survive the snow-caused damage?

The loss of minor limbs is typically no issue - as long as enough strong limbs remain on the otherwise healthy tree, it should recover easily. A mature, healthy shade tree can usually survive the loss of even a major limb. The youngest of trees can survive significant damage - as long as the lead branch and trunk are intact, a young tree should recover easily. Whether young or old, a tree can use your help in its recovery process by pruning broken branches and repairing rough edges around wounds. With your help, the tree's natural wound repair response will go as smoothly as possible.

With heavier damage, it can be more difficult to assess. A tree that has lost a major portion of its small branches or a mature tree that has lost several major limbs might be able to survive despite the major trauma. In such cases, it's best to get advice from a professional arborist, the closest thing we have to tree doctors, who can assess the potential for survival. An arborist will be able to assess which branches should be pruned and which should be kept so the tree can produce enough food for itself through the next growing season. 

Sadly, there are situations when a tree will not be able to recover. If the trunk is splitting, the tree has lost too many branches to hold adequate foliage for survival in the spring, or all that's left is the trunk, it's time to say goodbye and plant a new tree in its place.

For a helpful visual guide courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation, click here.