Hail Damages on Trees and Shrubs

Toso Bozic

Toso Bozic

Tree/Forestry Expert

Summer brings large and violent storms full of water and ice creating a hail. Large and small hailstones can be devastating damage to trees and shrubs. Hailstone can strip the finest foliage, snap twigs, tear tender tissues and together with wind break large branches or toppled trees. Usually during this storm strong winds that can strip a tree of its bark, break small and large twigs and totally defoliated trees.
Hail damage strips away the leaves that make energy for a tree or shrub. The hail damage to trees occurs on the upper side of branches and on the side of the trunk facing the storm leaving noticeable scars on branches and trunks. Depending on the overall health of trees it  may take some time to recover. The hailstone damage increases the vulnerability of the tree to decay causing fungi and insect activity.

Depending on the level of damages by hailstones, many healthy and resilient trees and shrubs can fortunately recover from such an event. The most important part of trees that entirely avoided a hail damage are the roots. Roots are like engines in trees and a healthy tree’s roots store much of its energy reserves helping hail damaged above ground to recover.

A healthy hail-damaged tree that has lost less than 20% of its foliage is likely to respond in the way it responds to a light pruning. When a tree has lost 50% or more of its foliage because of hail, the response can be more challenging with most likely a healthy tree will survive, but many interior limbs accustomed to being shaded are now exposed to much higher levels of sunlight. If a tree has lost more than 50 % branches it maybe difficult for trees to survive but depends on the tree species, health, age, and care.
In rare cases, hail can strip trees of virtually all their foliage. A first reaction is to remove the tree and start over. However, that might be the wrong approach unless the tree was very unhealthy to begin with, or unless it had other significant problems. There are many dormant buds that can sprout in weeks.

What can be done?

If trees and shrubs are severely damaged, there are few options including: proper pruning,  watering trees and putting wood mulch to trees after you completed pruning to protect roots during wintertime. Do not fertilize  trees after July 1 as it could be too late and detrimental to trees. Trees usually start shutting down and preparing for winter by the end of August and beginning of September, therefore tree roots may promote tree growth instead of preparing for winter. Early frost may kill and damage trees.  How to mulch trees you can find on this web site- Mulching Trees and Shrubs – Why and How? There are several considerations to keep in mind when pruning hailstone damaged trees:

Safety – inspect your tree for any power line contact. Look around the trees and carefully inspect them from a safe distance. Stay away from the trees and call the power company to deal with them.

  • If you have heavy broken branches or large trees, call a certified arborist to deal with them. Broken and/or hanging heavy branches can fall in a slight wind or cold and you can be easily injured.
  • Do not try to use a ladder to cut branches. Conditions may be very slippery and you can be easily injured.
  • Do a proper pruning that includes three-way cuts of larger branches to remove the heavy weight of the branch.
  • Small branches less than two inches in diameter can be removed with one cut.
  • Putting wound paint or dressing on the cut has no effect.
  • Do not leave any stubs when pruning.
  • Make cuts with sharp tools.

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