While trees go to sleep over winter they
still do an awful lot to keep their cells
alive. As you already know, trees drop
their leaves, so they no longer have to support
them. Also, trees will stock their cells
with water, which they use during various
Once winter arrives, trees move some
of that water into the tiny walls between
the cells. This assists in keeping the inside
of the cell from freezing. That relocated
water will freezes first, which gives off a
tiny burst of heat and helps keep the actual
tree cells from freezing. While all of this
is happening, trees also turn the starch inside
their cells to sugar, which makes cells
even more cold-tolerant.
Pine tree needles demand far less water
than trees with leaves. That’s why evergreen
trees don’t need to drop needles to
conserve H2O. In fact, even in icy conditions,
pines can move water throughout
their branches to nourish needles.
The dormant season is a restful time for
trees to conserve energy and prepare for
spring. Trees are just slowing down during
this time. But with bare branches and limited
activity, a dormant tree can look eerily
like a dead tree. If you’re curious whether
your sleepy tree is still alive, there are a
few easy checks you can do to make sure
your tree is still in good health.
Look for life
Trees in dormancy: Get close to your
tree and search for small leaf buds.
Branches full of green buds are alive and
ready to bloom in spring. A lack of buds,
or buds that are dry and shriveled, will
indicate a dead branch. If you find leaves
that hung on well past the fall leaf drop,
this may be another sign of a dead or dying
Perform the scratch test
During dormancy, use your fingertip to
lightly scratch a small spot on one of the
tree’s twigs. The layer immediately under
the bark should be moist and bright green.
Repeat this test on a couple twigs. While
you’re at it, try bending tree twigs. If they
break, they’re dead.
One last chance
Lastly, give them a chance before deciding
to remove them completely, sometimes
the top is dead but life will emerge
from the bottom and your tree will begin
to rebound! If this repeatedly happens
each spring, you may have a species variety
that is just not suitable for our cold climate,
we call this winter die-back. If you
have any questions regarding your trees,
feel free to give our office a call and we
will help you out.
– The Sublette County Conservation
District submits an article for the Sublette
Examiner on the first Tuesday of each
month. For more information, call 307-
367-2364 or stop by the new office at 217
Country Club Lane in Pinedale.