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In this article, learn how trees typically survive winter, what weather conditions cause damage, and how to manage additional tree damage!

4 Types of Tree Damage to Watch Out for During Winter

Even in the middle of terrible weather, winter can provide some breathtaking vistas of nature. The brilliance of the light glinting off of ice-coated trees and plants is a spectacle to see. However, while looking at the marvelous views, you notice that the trees look unprotected from the weather. Then follows an unsettling thought: can trees freeze to death? If you want a short answer: then it is a no. But still, winter weather can cause injuries and damage to trees. In this article, learn how trees typically survive the winter, what weather conditions cause damage, and how to manage tree damage during winter with the help of tree services in Sydney. 

How Trees Survive During Winter

During winter, trees face two major challenges: a shortage of liquid water and low temperatures. Because the external bark functions as a tight barrier, tree tissues cannot absorb moisture from melting snow.

The bark also serves as a key protective barrier for tree tissue, protecting it from physical injury.

In the winter season, trees hibernate and enter a state known as dormancy. All normal processes, including metabolism, development, and energy consumption, slow down. Early in dormancy, leaves fall so that the tree does not need to sustain much energy.

Trees take in additional water and fill their cells before going into dormancy. Water is transported and stored between them to protect the tree cells from freezing and dying during extreme cold. 

The water inside the tree freezes, but it does so after releasing a brief burst of heat to keep the cells alive. Finally, trees convert starch to sugar inside their cells to help them adjust to the cold. 

Types Of Winter Tree and Shrub Damage

1. Leaf Scorch

If you’re already familiar with gardening & landscaping, you may know that the browning of plant tissues caused by poor environmental conditions is known as leaf scorch.

When the ground freezes, plants are most vulnerable to harm on dry, windy, warm, or bright winter days. 

Plants can’t transport water from the frozen soil to replenish the moisture lost by exposed leaves in these conditions. Leaves curl and become limp as a result.

They become dark at the tips and veins, giving them a burnt appearance. Some plants may have leaves that roll up and inward. This is a means of coping, where the plant attempts to cut down on leaf exposure.

2. Salt Injury

The nutrients and content of the soil are critical for the health of trees and shrubs all year, but especially in the winter.

Road runoff containing dissolved salts can change the structure of the soil, causing it to contract. Trees have limited access to nutrients, water, and oxygen in this state.

This stresses the tree or shrub, causing harm to the shoot tips and young leaves.

3. Sunscald

Sunscald, also known as southwest injury, is a type of damage that occurs on the southwest side of emerging tree trunks.

The months of December through March are when young or thin-barked trees are most vulnerable.

During the chilly winter months, Sydney receives more sun than the rest of the country; therefore, sunscald is more common.

4. Desiccation

When a plant’s tissues dry up due to wind, ice-melting chemicals, or a lack of moisture in the air or soil, desiccation occurs. Because their leaves keep losing water, some tree species, such as Evergreens, are more susceptible while dormant.

In the winter, the ground freezes, making it more difficult for root systems to absorb water. When the roots absorb as much water as the leaves evaporate, damage to the foliage becomes obvious.

The injured leaves are frequently found on the side of the plant that faces the wind, where the most evaporation occurs.


Winter is a difficult season, which is why most animals (and even some humans) avoid experiencing it. They migrate south, hibernate, or hatch in the spring.

Trees don’t have a choice, but some unique northern trees have figured out how to survive the winter and look forward to the first days of spring. As for trees that need attention, make sure to reach out to gardeners in North Shore Sydney for solutions.  

Northside Tree and Garden Service’s qualified tree surgeons expertly assess your gardening needs. We offer a range of high-quality tree services in Sydney. Contact us today for your garden maintenance needs. 

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