How to Protect Your Trees from Sun Scald in the Winter

By: albertaarb - November 21, 2014

The warmth of the sun on cold winter days, which feels so welcome to humans, can actually be quite detrimental to the bark of young trees, thin-barked trees or saplings. Tree care in Edmonton for preventing sun scaled in winter months is a relatively simple process, but one many homeowners often overlook. Most people aren't even aware of the detrimental effects sun scald can have on tree bark -- and, ultimately, to the tree itself -- or that the condition even exists. Observe some basic tree care in Edmonton to preserve the health of every tree in your yard during bitter, though sunny, winter months.

Sun Scald Explained

During cold winter months as the sun warms tree bark, the layer of the bark where growth takes place, and which usually remains dormant during winter's bitter cold temperatures and overcast days, gets a sudden boost of warmth during the day from direct sunlight, triggering this layer's (the cambium layer) growth activity.

It's as if the intense heat of the sun "wakes up" the cambium layer, lulling it into a false sense of security by fooling it into thinking warmer days are ahead. But, as soon as the sun disappears and temperatures plummet at night -- over and over again throughout the winter -- sun scald sets it, causing irreversible damage to certain types of trees. The southwest side of the tree is especially at risk. 

Trees with very thin bark, young tender saplings, or trees that have been stripped of lower branches, or transplanted from a shady area to a sunny one are at risk from sun scald injury. As this warming, then sudden drop in temperature, continues recently activated tissue dies and results in tree bark that:

  1. Cracks
  2. Discolors
  3. Splits
  4. Suffers from sunken areas
  5. Appears dry

How to Protect Young or Thin-Skinned Trees

Trees with naturally thin skins are most susceptible to sun scald; older, more established trees, or thick-barked trees such as oaks, especially black oak, are protected from the winter warming scenario because of the insulation provided by the bark itself. In order to duplicate that insulation effect, tree specialists advise using a light-colored (reflective) tree wrap to protect sun scald injury in the following trees:

  1. Linden
  2. Honey locust
  3. Crabapple
  4. Plum
  5. Cherry
  6. Aspen
  7. Maple
  8. Ash
  9. Mountain ash

Tree care experts in Edmonton suggest keeping bark temperatures cooler by wrapping the entire tree trunk and lower limbs with white tree wrap. Protect the tree in the fall and remove the wrap in the spring, when sun scald danger is no longer a problem.

For questions concerning sun scald or any other tree-related issue, please don't hesitate to contact the professionals at Alberta Arborists. Our certified arborists will be more than happy to provide you with helpful information or arrange for a visit to inspect your trees and ensure their continued health throughout the seasons.

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