The Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

What's Hot at the P&PDL
February 3, 2011

Ice Damage to Trees

Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Department of Horticulture, Purdue University

Many area homeowners are concerned about potential damage to landscape plants from recent heavy snow and ice. Carefully remove heavy snow as soon as possible using a soft broom or rubber rake, but don't try to remove ice. Damage to the bark is more likely in trying to remove ice than simply allowing it to melt on its own.

In typical ice storms, the trees hardest hit are weak wooded species such as silver maples, Siberian elms, river birch, and willows. Trees that have been previously topped generally respond by re-growing numerous weak branches that are even more susceptible to breakage. These are among the first of the branches that fall during an ice storm.

Evergreens, both trees and shrubs, are also particularly vulnerable because they still have foliage and so tend to collect more snow and ice loads. Evergreen trees, such as pine and spruce, are not capable of filling in new top growth where the damage has occurred, so the natural shape of the tree will be permanently affected.

For information on pruning contact a Purdue University cooperative extension service office and ask for bulletin "HO-4, Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs" or go online to (pdf file).

Also see:
Picture of the Week for Jan. 17, 2005 - Winter Ice Damage to Trees


Click image to enlarge

Ice damage

Ice damage

Ice damage

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service