"Winter Burn" hitting evergreen trees and shrubs

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- "Sometimes the browning is a sign of complete death and other times a sign there is just damage," said Erin Lafaive, a Horticulture Educator at UW-Extension.

Right now that is the great unknown. Evergreen shrubs and trees across Western Wisconsin are beginning to show signs of a long, harsh winter and last year's drought.

Erin Lafaive says it is called "winter burn."

"They're basically dehydrating out because there is not water in their system to keep them alive," she said.

What happens are the trees and shrubs lose water through their needles because of the sun and wind.

The long and cold winter means they cannot replenish that supply.

"They're still using that water when the ground is frozen; it may be cold out and you may think nothing is growing but they are still processing that water," she said.

You can see a clear contrast between the orange and green needles on shrubs.

Lafaive is able to put those needles under a microscope and get an up close look at the damage.

At Premium Lawn Service in Altoona, their vegetation is just as prone to Winter Burn as anywhere else. David Welke, the owner, says they have been getting a lot of calls about Winter Burn.

But before you replace the plant thinking it is dead, Welke says wait - the needles might just be damaged.

"Let them grow out and hopefully after growing season we'll be able to see which ones should be replaced at that time," he said.

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