Winter’s Burn: Give Your Evergreen Trees a Chance

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The Minnesota winter tends to take its toll of all of us. But its not just humans that feel the effects of a longer, more brutal cold weather season: Winter can also have negative effects on the vegetation in our state.

And, as a result, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking southern Minnesota property owners to give evergreens a chance: They are asking that anyone with evergreens on their property wait one month before they decide to remove them from their property. They will show signs of stress such as the loss of needles in their canopy or their needles being brown or turning yellow.

DNR forest health specialists have received reports of spruce, white cedar, and white pine that appeared to die suddenly in Fillmore, Houston, Freeborn, Goodhue, and Hennepin counties in Minnesota. There have been reported cases where up to 90% of needles in the upper canopy of spruce trees have fallen off, while the bottom branches remained green.

Recently, planted evergreens and smaller trees were hardest hit.

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Brian Schwingle, DNR forest health specialist, explained the root cause for this needle loss, “In most instances, this extensive needle loss is the result of severe winter drying. Warm, windy days with low humidity in late April caused evergreen needles to lose moisture, and the frozen soil in the root zone prevented water from moving back into the needles to replace that moisture.”

Schwingle recommends that people keep an eye on their evergreens and wait to see if they regain their canopy with new growth. Trees with 50% or more of their needle canopy remaining could, and often do, recover.

So, if you have some evergreens that are looking a lot like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, give them a little time before you decide to give them the axe. We all understand the effect a long winter can have on our well-being.

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