Tree Survival in the Winter

Many have asked how trees can survive the harsh winters we have here in Northern Indiana.     I’ll look to answer that question in this post.   If you have any further questions, please fill out the form below and I’ll try to dig deeper and get your question answered.


There is no doubt that the harsh Northern Indiana winters place a great deal of stress on our trees.    Not only is it extremely cold, but there is a lack of one of the most important ingredients to tree health, and that is water.   Sure, when the snow melts, water becomes prevalent, however with the extreme cold that we often have locally, it can be quite a long time before the snow melts to water, or does it?

There are 3 potential resources for water that is available for a tree to survive.   They are the internal tree reservoirs, the soil and the subnivean.     The subnivean is area below the snow.   Here in northern Indiana the soil gets very cold but for the most part stays unfrozen for most of the winter.   The snow acts as a blanket and keeps the ground from completely freezing.    That allows the soil to remain moist, thus giving the tree a drink when needed.

Studies have shown that trees become dormant in the wintertime so they can survive.   The beginning of dormancy begins in the fall when the trees lose their leaves.   This takes place as the tree will no longer need the leaves since it won’t be producing food for itself, thus shedding the leaves to limit energy consumption.   When its time for a tree to lose its leaves, it creates a chemical called ABA (Abscisic Acid) which essentially kills the buds and eventually allowing the leaf to fall from the tree.   This process only occurs in deciduous trees.

ABA also suspends growth, which keeps the cells from dividing.   In dormancy, the tree does not grow therefore doesn’t need the energy that’s required in the spring when growth returns.   The trees metabolism also slows down during the winter months and slowing uses food that it has stored.

Other concerns in the winter time for trees here in Northern Indiana is heavy snow and ice.   Trees like Firs and Spruces are flexible and can withstand the weight, but many others simply cannot.   We encourage everyone to keep their trees trimmed and highly recommend getting a Winter Tree Pruning done as this will help the overall health and structure of the tree.

Winter is a challenging time for all living things, including trees.

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