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Frost Damage

tree leaves with killing frost damage
An example of frost damage

Frost damage occurs when freezing temperatures cause ice to form inside of a plant. The damage tends to be elevation dependent because higher elevations experience colder temperatures. In some years, widespread frost damage impacts deciduous trees across large regions of the state. In these places, brown hillsides made up of trees with dead, curled-up leaves can be seen.

The last widespread occurrence of frost damage across New York State was in 2012, but various regions of the state experience it most springs.


Eventually, trees shed the damaged leaves and most trees grow a new set, especially if normal precipitation occurs over the following weeks.

In areas previously defoliated by the forest tent caterpillar or another pest, this weather-related defoliation will cause additional stress and may lead to an increase in tree mortality.


Have more questions, or think something else is wrong with your tree? See our resources on other forest health issues. You can also email photos or mail specimens to our Forest Health Diagnostic Lab for help with identification.

leaves with frost damage
Frost-damaged leaves on a deciduous tree
brown hill of Catskills showing frost damage
Frost damage in the Catskills, May 2010
frost damage in American beech
Frost damage in American beech

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