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Pacific Northwest Trees Suffering Sunscorch: Increases Fire Danger

Dan Stark

The extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest last month caused an uncommon problem for trees. It’s called sun scorch. Basically a sunburn for trees.


“So the heat lasting longer in the day means that the trees weren’t able to open their stomata,” said Lauren Grand, OSU Extension Forester. “Which are the little holes in their leaves that help them breathe and move water through the tree.”

This is a defense mechanism that causes damaged needles on the canopy to turn brown. Sun-scorched trees can recover, but continued exposure will make it harder.

Because of their dry canopies, these trees create an increased fire risk. People should use extra caution when recreating in the forests or around affected trees on their property.

Grand shared some tips on how to limit sun scorch damage on your trees at home.

Credit Dan Stark
People often take refuge from the sun under a tree, but sometimes trees need us to help protect them from the sun.


“Do a deep watering. And then, if they can put up some sort of sun shade on the southern side of the tree,” Grand said. “Putting mulch around the trees, as well, will help retain moisture.”


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