Winter storms cause tremendous stress and severe damage to trees in the urban forest. Snapped or downed trees should be removed, but what about a tree that only suffers minor damage? How can a homeowner tell if a tree is safe enough to keep?
Assessing the Damage
- Minor damage – with only the smallest branches of the tree being injured – usually results in little or no permanent injury to the tree. All that is required is cleanup of the broken twigs and branches and perhaps a crown cleaning to restore a pleasing shape.
- More severe damage – large broken, hanging branches, split branch union, torn bark or splintering of the trunk – can be caused by strong winds and heavy ice storms and require more maintenance. When a tree is severely damaged, homeowners must ask: “Is this tree safe, and in good enough condition to keep?” A tree care professional should be consulted to answer this question.
“A qualified arborist will take the time and effort to save a tree only if the tree will still be healthy, attractive and of value to the property owner after repairs,” explains Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP and staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). “A tree care expert may recommend removal of a tree that has brittle wood, or if the branch structure makes it vulnerable to damage from future storms. Trees that have been topped by storms, for example, might be prime candidates for removal,” says Andersen. Other factors to consider when determining if a tree is worth saving:
- Species – Is this type of tree prone to pests and other problems?
- Age – Is the tree mature or over-mature?
- Vigor – What health condition was the tree in before the damage?
- Value –What value does it add to the property? Does the tree still have value, even if partially damaged?
- Sentimental Value – Is the tree a living monument?
If a tree is not worth saving, remove it as soon as possible.
If a tree severely damaged by storms is not removed and the tree dies, it could become a hazard. Removing hazard trees can be difficult and is usually dangerous to the tree care crew. The procedures require special equipment and techniques, adding to the cost. Seek out insured, competent tree care professionals to take on this work.
*Board Certified Master Arborist, Certified Treecare Safety Professional