Frost Crack in Linden Tree

September 22, 2022


Photographer: Dale Hugo   

Summary Author: Dale Hugo   

This scar running about 10 ft (3 m) on our linden (or basswood) tree out front is probably a frost crack. Cracks like this are caused on extremely cold days, usually at night or early morning when it is coldest, as sap under the bark expands enough to cause a rupture or even an explosion, sounding like a gun shot. However, I don’t recall hearing such a retort coming from our linden. But here in northeastern Illinois, temperatures dropped to at least -25 F (-32C) the past several winters. This tree has been in place since 1974, between the sidewalk and the street.

Often such scars are attributed to lightning strikes. We had one across the street on a giant cottonwood, but the effect was to kill 1/3 of the tree, leaving a scar that never will heal.

A frost wound is referred to by foresters and arborists as a frost rib or frost ridge. The split heals and the health of the tree is unaffected. Further evidence is that the scar doesn’t continue up the trunk toward the top of the tree but is localized. This linden was in full flower this past spring and the fragrance was wonderful. Incidentally, the flowers of a linden can be collected to make a fragrant tea.


Arlington Heights, Illinois Coordinates: 42.0884, -87.9806

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