Holiday lights can kill your trees
Tree limbs traced in lights are beautiful but do not let the
tree go into spring with cords still wrapped there. That can girdle
an expanding limb in just one season.
Below: A tree or shrub limb expands in diameter as it adds a
new layer of wood each year. No matter how old or large it is, if
that expansion runs into a girdle -- any encirclement from a
hammock noose to a holiday light cord -- the delicate and
irreplaceable living layer under the bark can be killed. Sometimes
death comes in one year, other times the girdle has enough give or
the branch a slow growth rate so death takes longer.
In this case the strand of lights remained on the tree
through a whole growing season. During that 9 months it's become so
tight the bark's bulging around it. The limb can still be saved if
the girdle's removed right now. However, if the cord's still there
next spring, everything above the lowest girdling loop will
It's so easy to forget about lights as the New Year ages. Many
people realize their mistake only in summer when they notice a dead
or dying portion of a tree's crown.
So act now. Go out on that first fine, above-freezing day and
unwrap your trees. If you can't unwrap, clip the cords. On the one
hand it's a $20 string of lights -- on the other, a limb or a tree
that took 20 years to grow.
We covered this and other pursuits for productively channeling
winter gardening energy in What's
Coming Up 67.