Managing Snow Load

Pine tree branches covered in snow

When do snow-covered tree branches go from picturesque winter wonderland to worrisome? How much weight can those branches withstand?
A light covering of snow isn’t harmful. In fact, it offers protection from the cold and drying winter winds. When it comes to heavier loads, slow-growing deciduous trees like red oak and single-trunk evergreen trees such as white pine can often withstand the weight. However, evergreens with multiple trunks and random branching, like white cedar, and trees with multiple stems, such as paper birch, are more prone to suffering snow-load damage.
Usually, it’s best to let snow melt and fall off trees naturally. Clearing snow from branches can be dangerous and can damage the tree. If the tree is small and you are concerned about a heavy snow load, you can use a broom to gently sweep off the snow. If the branches are covered in ice or drooping branches pose a threat to your safety, wait for it to melt.
To protect your trees from future snowstorms, wrap your small cedars in twine, rather than burlap. Older trees don’t need to be wrapped. Ongoing year-round care can also help keep trees safe and strong. Regular pruning of mature trees by a certified arborist will remove hazardous branches and create a strongly structured tree. Water and mulch young trees until late fall to keep them healthy and resilient.

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