Killer trees await in winter woods, says Penn State Forestry Center


According to Allyson Muth, acting director of the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, death or injury could lurk above the otherwise serene snowy forest landscape of winter.

While you’re out and about enjoying this winter wonderland, be sure to search frequently, she recommended in a recent newsletter to forest owners.

“With extreme weather conditions such as straight line winds and tornadoes occurring throughout the year, trees can suffer damage such as broken branches or tops. Add the weight of ice and snow and care should be taken when enjoying a peaceful hike, ”she wrote.

“Look up often to make sure you aren’t walking or stopping under hanging limbs that could give way to wind or gravity. They are called widowmakers for a reason. If they are in areas where others might encounter them, flag the area as a reminder to use caution or avoid the area until they fall.

And it’s not just the branches or the treetops lurking above you that might attract you.

Muth noted: “In the forest the trees are dying all the time. After death, most trees degrade from the smallest pieces to the largest – small twigs and branches are the first to break, followed by larger structural members and eventually the bole – over the course of several years.

“Forest health issues can also cause concern about structural changes in a tree. Insects and diseases that attack individual trees can cause limb death or the outright death of trees.

“The hemlock woolly aphid attacks hemlock trees. Years with severe gypsy moth outbreaks kill oaks. In times of high insect activity, we can sometimes observe generalized mortality.

“Most killed trees will degrade slowly, but the ash doesn’t always follow normal patterns of decay after death. In areas where ash is dying, use extra caution, especially on windy days. We know that the ashes break halfway up the bole of the tree.

Clothing and protective gear selections are additional considerations for winter wood, according to Muth. Sturdy shoes that support the ankles on uneven ground and are waterproof in wet conditions, perhaps a hard hat, especially on windy days, and layered clothing that can withstand brush and bramble while still adapting temperature changes fall into one of these categories.

The need for tick precautions never completely disappears in modern Pennsylvania, regardless of the season. Treated clothing with long sleeves and long pant legs are the first line of defense, reinforced by tick controls when returning indoors.

Additional precautions for a safe time in the winter woods include water for hydration, snacks to keep your energy up, a cell phone or two-way radio for emergency communications, and someone on hand. home knowing where you’ve been and when you’re supposed to. to recover.

Contact Marcus Schneck at [email protected].

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