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White Birch, bent by storms, snow.... will they recover?

Started by wfcjr, February 01, 2015, 11:34:54 AM

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We have a pretty good smattering of white birch on our property.  With some of the heavy, wet snows that
we had in late fall/early winter, a number of them are now pretty bent over.   Will these trees recover in the spring, or are they likely permanently bent & bowed?  If they will recover, I'll let them stand.  If they are pretty much permanently bent & bowed, they will become next winters firewood logs while the ground is still frozen.

Thanks for any replies.


Smaller ones are most likely to pop back. Bigger 6"+ from my experience probably not. Crown reduction is an option if they serve a purpose in the landscape.
"Trees live a secret life only revealed to those that climb them"

Skidder Kev

A year after our ice storm that we had not many birch came back up,  you can still drive around and see some bent over in peoples yards.  I would say remove the worst ones anyways. 



My experience is that if the trunk is still coming out of the ground straight but the tree leaned over starting a few feet or more above the ground, like an inverted U, it will usually straighten back up.

If the trunk has leaned starting right at the ground, the tree will not straighten back up.

I'd also wait until next summer before cutting any leaners to see which ones do straighten up on their own.

mesquite buckeye

Most of the trees that I have seen bent stay bent. I have seen this in bur oaks and cedars. Don't know how well birch straightens up, but I haven't seen much improvement in other trees. I've only left bent ones where they were just perfect form before they got bent and I want them to make some seed.
Manage 80 acre tree farm in central Missouri and Mesquite timber and about a gozillion saguaros in Arizona.


I think this guy covered the topic.  I've never looked at a birch the same way since reading this in 1969.  All the best, Rob.

BIRCHES  --  by Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Source: The Poetry of Robert Frost (1969)
If you have time, you win....


Sometimes the bark gets split from the bending over part. I almost doubt the trees will amount to anything in years to come.
Model 6020-20hp Manual Thomas bandsaw,TC40A 4wd 40 hp New Holland tractor, 450 Norse Winch, Heatmor 400 OWB,YCC 1978-79


Quote from: 78NHTFY on February 01, 2015, 04:54:54 PM
I think this guy covered the topic.  I've never looked at a birch the same way since reading this in 1969. 

OK, now you are going to make me feel guilty if I cut them....


...don't feel guilty :D :D :D.  Better them than us!! I cut a lot of them but they scare me: many are dead/dying and it's the tops that break careful.  All the best, Rob.
If you have time, you win....

svart ole

I would wait and see what they look like after green up. Some will come out of it, some do not.  I know they look bad now but that does not mean they are done for. Things are not always as they seem.

A case in point......

Fella from down south retired and bought a farm down the road from me. Noticed he was busy cutting wood and had a good 20 cords piled up north of his barn. Ran into him in town one day and asked if he was going to ship that for pulp or was he just figuring on burning it for firewood. His comment was that well all the trees on that wet 40 to the south died this fall so I figured I may as well take them out when the ground is hard. After explaining to him that tamarack turn yellow and drop their needles in the winter and then green up in the spring........there was a bit of a silence and then he said, "Boy is my wife going to be mad at me, she thought they where real pretty and felt real bad when I told her they all died".   splitwood_smiley

My wife said I collect junk, I told her I am a amateur industrial archaeologist just trying to save valuable artifacts.


I wouldn't cut them now ,I would wait to see how many straighten up and then cut the bad ones next winter. Unless you need those for firewood.


Thanks 78, I needed to read that again. Maybe not too late for another ride.


The first question to ask is if any of the trees in question are a hazard to your house, car, sidewalk, etc.  If yes, they need to go.  The next question to ask is about damage to each tree.  Can you observe split, broken, or peeling limbs or leaders?  If yes, they need pruning or removal.  If they are not a hazard or showing obvious signs of damage, I would wait before removing. 

Birch trees loaded and bent over by the Ice Storm of '98 had a remarkable ability to recover.  So many trees I thought would need to be removed where able to recover.  I would observe the trees in the spring and examine the flush of growth and in the summer look for trees that have failed to leaf out or have dying tops.  If you do this for a few seasons, you will be able to see what trees are recovering and which ones are bound for the woodpile.  Don't be hasty about removing if these trees are a valuable part of your landscape (and they aren't a hazard). 


At the farm we have a few yard white birch that in the '98 ice storm bent to the ground. But they were not bent down for long. The temp climbed so that the ice melted and they all stood back up. If they are down for an extended period they are less likely to recover. Birch are bad for being bend. We have another birch here, which is grey birch, and that is worst. It's like over grown alders to me. The development near town here where I'm at now has it all over. Them darn things have knocked the power out here 4 times in less than a year because one bad storm bent them over and it took 3 more storms to finally get those darn things away from the wires. People look at them and see white bark, and think they have white birch, but they are just a nuisance shrub.
"No amount of belief makes something a fact." James Randi

1 Thessalonians 5:21

2020 Polaris Ranger 570 to forward firewood, Husqvarna 555 XT Pro, Stihl FS560 clearing saw and continuously thinning my ground, on the side. Grow them trees. (((o)))

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