Do Trees Hibernate?

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Do Trees Hibernate?

We’re hoping the title caught your attention! 

Perhaps you had images in your mind of a massive sycamore gathering tons of food and finding a cozy cave to snooze away the cold months…

And that’s not far from the truth!

Although you won’t be seeing any walking trees (we’re guessing you aren’t in South America), you will see entire forests prepping for winter in their own way. Perhaps you can think of it as a tree’s annual “staycation.”

Stay tuned as Wildcat Creek Tree Service in Lafayette, Indiana brings you the story of a tree as it approaches winter.

Hibernation…or Dormancy

Ok, so hibernation isn’t the proper term, but the parallels are still there. 

The actual term is “dormancy.” However, you can still hold onto the image of an animal hibernating for winter, because in a very real way, that’s what’s going on inside of every tree once the weather starts changing. 

What Is Dormancy?

So what is dormancy, anyway?

Just like hibernation in animals, dormancy is the state of rest trees enter in order to survive the winter. 

This is a multi-faceted process that showcases how impressive nature can be!

Shedding Leaves

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The dormancy period is all about efficiency. As a plant prepares for dormancy, getting rid of any unnecessary drain on resources is the first step. So while animals shed their fur and gain their winter coats, trees get rid of their leaves to prevent any unneeded energy expenditure. 

Also, the metabolism and growth processes slow down, as the winter months (just like dry spells) are no good for building and growing. 


As the bears and squirrels gather nuts and berries, trees do their own winter prep once Jack Frost can be seen on the horizon. 

But instead of gathering food, trees will actually transform their stores of starch into sugars. These sugars work like a natural antifreeze, lowering the freezing point of the fluids within the tree. This way, the tree is able to perform essential processes that keep it alive while it’s resting.


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Another way that trees prepare like animals is in the layer of insulation they build up. In animals, it’s a layer of fat built up by all the gathering of consumption of food. For a tree, it’s a layer of dead cells that are allowed to freeze. 

Although this isn’t necessarily used like insulation, it’s interesting to see how trees act like a community, moving resources and prioritizing tasks just like farmers making provisions to keep their animals safe, warm, and fed during winter.

This means making sure that essential, living cells are cared for and preserved while dead cells are left to freeze, saving energy and prepping for flowing sap when the weather warms back up.

Giving Them Some Help

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First of all, it’s not like your trees actually need your help—they’ve been doing their seasonal dance for millennia.

But there are some things you can do to maximize the health of your tree coming out of winter.

  1. Water them – It may seem silly, but actually, even though you won’t be seeing pretty green leaves or additional growth, trees still need plenty of water during winter to keep them alive and strong.
  2. Give them additional insulation – It’s a good idea to put some mulch around the base of your trees and don’t clear away the snow that falls around it. 
  3. Protect susceptible trees – Depending on the type of tree, you may want to cover portions of the trunk to prevent winter burn in species that are originally from warmer climates. Many times, these types of trees become damaged or eventually die.
  4. Prune as needed – As trees seek efficiency for winter, pruning will seriously help the tree conserve resources.

Set Your Trees Up for Hibernation Success

Give your trees their best chance at coming out of dormancy in great shape with help from the experts. Wildcat Creek Tree Service in Lafayette, Indiana is happy to look over your property, give you tips, and help prep your trees for winter. 

For more information on protecting your trees this winter, give our tree experts a ring at (765) 404-0938