Tree Frost Cracks

January 31, 2024

frost cracks on maple tree bark

What Is A Frost Crack?

Frost cracks are vertical splits in the bark of a tree and are most often associated with smoother barked trees. These cracks are common in young Maple trees and Sycamore or London-Plane Trees. Warming and cooling of the bark and underlying wood causes the bark to split when it rapidly cools, but the wood underneath does not. 


What is Sunscald? 

While similar in nature, sunscald is a more damaging wound for a tree. Usually occurring on the south or southwest side of the tree, the increased temperature causes cells to exit dormancy and begin to transport water. However, with normal Winter night temperatures, the cells then freeze and the rapidly expanding water causes cells to burst and die. Sunscald can either appear as patches of damage or jagged edge cracks. 


What Can Be Done?

The easiest method for protecting young trees from frost cracks is to protect the bark from changing temperatures. Tree wrap offers a simple and cost effective method for protecting the bark from the sudden changes in temperature by blocking sunlight and retaining some heat to prevent the cells underneath from refreezing after heating up. Crepe paper wraps should be light in color and wrapped on the trunk of the tree up to the first branch. It should be applied as early as late-November and removed by mid-April to prevent retention of moisture, which can cause fungal growth. It is important to note that tree wraps should only be used for the first few years after planting as by then the tree should have developed a thick enough bark to not be affected by significant heating and freezing. 


If your tree already has Winter damage, then the best thing to do is to help it recover from its wounds and start to compartmentalize the damage. Mulching to help the tree retain water and fertilizing to ensure the tree has all the nutrients it needs will help keep your tree healthy and better suited to survive any damage caused or pests that may take the opportunity to attack the stressed tree. 


If you are worried that your tree may have experienced some damage or want to discuss options for protecting them, give the Splintered Forest Tree Services team a call today! Our Plant Health Care specialists are available to discuss your options to keep your trees in optimal health. Call us today at 303-819-9840 or request your Plant Health Care appointment for a free estimate for frost cracks and many other services to keep trees healthy.