Evaluating Frost Cracks


What are some considerations you use when evaluating frost cracks on larger trees? I have few poplars that are about 36"DBH and have cracks that range 5-10 feet and 1- 1.5 opening. I know the crack will close up in the spring, but these ones are a bit larger.

Any thoughts would be great.


No matter what, the structural strength is compromised. Diameter, how tall, exposure, targets all figure into decision making. Then can you mitigate the risk (crown reduction) or do you have to remove. Like everything else, it all depends.


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...or do nothing. While there is some compromised strength, often it is not significant. Agreed that you have to look at the whole picture.

The cracks do give a rare opportunity to see what is going on inside the tree. Get a bright flashlight and a probe to see if there is other decay in there. Are there other significant defects that the cracks tie into?

Watch them on a windy day....how much does the trunk move (cracks open and close?)? If there is no visible movement and I can't see any decay in there, I'm just not going to get all that excited about shallow cracks.


I have a red maple here with a pretty good crack in it and I’m just going to leave it for now. You’re right about how there’s frequently not a lot of loss of strength. Trees are over-engineered for average conditions so a lot of times the cracks only come into play in severe weather events. They do open up an avenue for infection by decay organisms so it’s wise to keep an eye open for fungal attack.
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Serf Life

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Wouldn't worry much with a maple, but of course decay will be much faster in poplars with 5 ft cracks... How many years have they been present @Leafguy ?


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Trees have had cracks for about 3 years according to the homeowner. Very healthy canopies.
3 years... to me, that says that the cracks themselves are not a problem. Is there any change for better or worse, in decay or wound healing? Are the cracks getting longer or deeper?

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