How to tell dead from alive branches in winter
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How to tell dead from alive branches in winter

People often ask how we are able to prune dead branches in the winter when there are no leaves on the tree and the whole tree looks dead.  With a trained and experienced eye there are four clear indicators to look for when determining if a branch is alive or not.
1 Look for buds, if a branch or twig has buds this is a clear indicator that the branch may be alive.
2 Colour can also be used to make the difference between a dead and live branch, the dead growth will be either lighter or darker in colour depending on the species and how long the branch has been dead for.
3 Check for bark texture, a live branch should have a plump and full appearance and the bark will be firmly attached to the wood. Branches that are dead or dying will have more of a shrivelled look from the absence of water in the bark and branches that have been dead a long time can also be absent of bark.
4 Flexibility is the final method we used is the first 3 still have not helped in providing a definite answer of whether the branch is dead or not, using a light flex as a test, a live branch will be pliable and remain intact and a dead branch will either break or not bend as easily because dry and dead wood does not have the same bending properties as live healthy wood.
Finally a bonus test is the temperature of a branch, we don’t really rely on this one because we prefer to keep our gloves on our hands in the winter. Dead and dry branches will be warmer to the touch than healthy live branches which have a degree of moisture content making them feel cooler.

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