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Extreme Heat, and Tree Health – What You Should Know

Much of the country has experienced the extreme heat and drought conditions that we have become accustomed to in the DC Metro, and Northern Virginia/Suburban Maryland areas. This extreme heat and decreased water can have a negative impact on plant and tree health, and we have gotten many questions recently.  We will share some tips, and if there is something that we don’t cover, reach out to one of our tree care specialists for more information.

As we approach the home stretch in what was a scorching summer, it is important to assess the health of your trees. Like anything else, trees handle the summer heat differently. When there is less rain, trees start to lose the smaller roots near the surface. Their job is to collect the moisture near the soil, but when that water evaporates or is simply not present, those roots can not survive. As more and more moisture is lost, the soil “cracks,” shrinking in on itself. This can damage the root structure of a tree and should be monitored. In larger trees, the effect of drought will not be seen for years, so it is important to keep an eye on the moisture level of the soil.

There are many symptoms that a tree that has experienced heat stress, but the most common is a discoloration of the leaves. This may be gradual, starting at the edges, or sudden, with all of the leaves becoming discolored in a very short period of time. Often this is the result of damage incurred years prior, but it is still important to know what you are seeing. This change is often blamed on insects or disease, and it is true if those are prevalent, the heat and drought conditions will exacerbate the symptoms.

Prolonged exposure to extreme heat (daytime temperature over 95 degrees) slows the functions of trees, as does exposure to extreme soil temperatures. When the night time temperature remains above 85 degrees these conditions are prime for insects and disease to prey on the weakened trees.

In order to minimize the damage to trees, you should properly water them, but avoid overwatering. Too much water can actually damage trees, so you should be sure that moisture makes it deep into the soil. If you have any questions about how to care for your trees in the extreme heat, please contact us for a complimentary consultation with a certified arborist.

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