Iowa (KCAU) — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has received reports of winter burn damage to conifer trees across Iowa.  

According to a release from the Iowa DNR, damage to arborvitae and white pine trees has been reported as the weather continues to get warmer.  

“The ground remained frozen for a long time at the start of this year and the ambient temperatures were above freezing,” said DNR forest health forester Tivon Feeley, “The tree is forced to use their water reserves in the needles but can’t absorb new water from the frozen soil. The lack of water causes the trees to dry out.” 

The release specified that Winter Burn is common in trees that are in open and unprotected locations, leaving them to be exposed to severe winter conditions.  

Symptoms of winter burn include browning or bleaching of the needles, losing needles, and tree death, according to the release. The symptoms become more obvious as the day becomes warmer, it was stated to be worse on the side of the tree that faces the sun, or wind during the winter months.  

The release indicated that if the needles on the tree are dead, but buds are alive, then new foliage will regrow to replace the burned foliage. However, if the buds and needles are dead, the tree will be unable to recover and will need to be removed.  

Winter Burn is not considered preventable but can be reduced by mulching around conifer trees, as well as ensuring the tree is hydrated before going dormant in the fall. This can be imperative during dry or drought conditions.  

According to the release, the DNR advises caution when planting conifers in newly planted windbreaks. It also stated that trees that shed their leaves tend to grow faster, have fewer diseases and insect problems, and provide faster protection.  

For further information contact your local district forester.