We just had our first significant snowfall and I had to cringe when I drove around the area. People were actually knocking snow off trees with snow shovels and brooms. Some were just shaking it off, which is just as bad. Brushing with your hands is the only technique that is not harmful to the tree.
Last January, I wrote about the dangers to both you and the tree when you shake or knock off snow or ice. How soon we forget! So, once again I’ll remind you before the next big snowstorm.
Nature built evergreen trees (technically conifers) to carry heavy snow loads. Their soft wood is much more resilient than hardwoods. That’s why hardwoods lose their leaves in winter – to lighten the weight on their branches and discourage snow from sticking. At this time of year, however, there are still some deciduous trees with some or all of their leaves intact. This is putting enough stress on the branches without adding the additional stress of whacking the branches with a shovel or broom or shaking them with your hands.
Notice the shape of your evergreens. They are cone shaped. While snow build-up may cause the branches to droop more than normal, they will spring right back when the snow melts and the added weight is removed. As it melts, the snow slides off the branches naturally, just as it does in the woods.
If you try to help evergreens shed snow faster, branches are apt to break when they snap back, rather than returning to their natural shape gradually. Remember, it is you standing under the tree right where the branches, snow or chards of ice fall. Also, your shaking, sweeping and beating action can cause an avalanche of snow to fall on you.
Removing ice can also cause injury to you, as well as damage to the tree. Ice falling from the upper branches can injure you as you stand under the branches. The stress to branches from removing ice can also cause them to crack internally.
The next time you feel sorry for that poor, snow-covered evergreen in your yard, remember how nature designed it. Watch the snow gradually melt and slide from its branches and the branches return to their natural positions. It can actually be relaxing.