Ponderosa pine wth winter burn damage
A ponderosa pine with winter burn damage.
Photo: Steve Rudolph, CSFS
WOODLAND PARK, Colo. – A recent cold snap in October injured a large number of ponderosa pines in the southeast area of Colorado. With warm weather preceding winter this year, the trees did not have the chance to transition into dormancy before freezing occurred.

Damaged pine trees may appear grizzled and possess white or straw-colored foliage, referred to as “winter burn.” While most sightings of pines exhibiting these frost-damage symptoms have occurred in Black Forest, trees in other areas may be experiencing this damage as well.

Unfortunately, little can be done for trees that have sustained winter burn damage, according to Steve Rudolph, a forester in the Colorado State Forest Service’s Woodland Park Field Office.

However, “the buds on these frost-injured trees may have survived, and they may produce new growth this spring,” Rudolph said. “Don’t count them out just yet.”

The CSFS recommends that residents monitor the foliage of their trees for color changes or a brittle appearance.

Along with watching for these common frost injuries to their trees, residents should also frequently water their trees to avoid drought-like conditions throughout the winter.

Winter watering

It may seem odd to water plants during the freezing winter months, but overly dry trees can become highly susceptible to root and branch die-off, as well as more prone to insects and diseases. The best time for winter watering are days when the snow has melted off a bit and the temperature is above 40 degrees.

When doing this, residents should soak the entire base of the tree, slowly, to ensure deep soil penetration, and repeat this process as necessary until abundant spring rains begin to fall.

Monitoring trees for cold weather damage and keeping up with watering should maximize the trees’ health and vigor when they come out of dormancy in the spring and summer months.

For any questions, comments or concerns, please contact the Woodland Park Field Office at (719) 687-2951 or csfs_woodlandpark@mail.colostate.edu.