Should you do a tree removal, trimming or nothing?
You better read the signals your tree is giving you before a tragedy occurs
Any tree can become a hazard, but if a threat is not present, a tree removal isn’t the best course of action. Your trees add an average of 10 percent to your property’s value. They could add a cooling effect to your house helping you cut your air conditioner needs. A young healthy tree has so many more benefits for you and your neighborhood. But can you prevent your tree from turning into a liability? We will help you check and figure if your tree is a menace.
Caution: There is no replacement for hiring an expert. The goal of this article is to aide you into spotting signs not always visible to homeowners. But in no case substitutes the need for a professional tree service.
Can the tree hit a target?
No target equals no hazard. Consider a tree hazardous if a target can be hit when falling. A target can be a building, a vehicle or a person within the reach of a plunging tree or one of its parts. When there is no target present, is better to leave the tree intact, even if it has died years ago. If required cut only a few branches so you don’t abrupt the ecosystem of trees nearby. Sometimes these trees are protecting a healthy tree from wind or erosion.
Age is too an important point to contemplate, the older the tree the higher the risk. Take into consideration the environment. Where is its location? on rock ledges, near a body of water or does it have a shallow root system? All those factors increase the probability of failure.
How to inspect your trees
We are going to look at the tree from top to bottom reviewing its three main parts.
Crown form and vigor indicates health on trees. A hazardous tree will show these characteristics:
- Dieback: when branches in the upper crown die from the top down. The stress provoked by extended periods of drought, insects or root disease creates dieback. Opportunistic pests, bugs and fungi invade stressed trees. You should do a tree removal if dieback is in advanced stages.
- V-shape forks: extreme weather usually triggers a failure on these weak points. The trees more susceptible to break because of V-shaped forks are Oak, maple, willow and elm. Nevertheless, corrective pruning when trees are young can prevent many of these problems.
- Lopsided crowns: often trees end up with lopsided crowns when they get surrounded by other trees. A response to their demand for sunlight.
- Leaning: Most of the time, you need to remove trees with15 degrees of inclination from vertical. Trees that grew leaned are less of a hazard than those that leaned due to the wind or roots problems. An indicator of a risky lean problem is when uplifted soil shows opposite the lean.
When many of the listed characteristics are visible, the tree represents danger and you need a tree removal.
One of the major causes of tree failure is when they get weakened by decay produced by fungi. Healthy trees bend and sways. But if they are decaying their tissues are unflexible and crack and break with ease.
The fungi weaken the wood, grow and reproduce. Soft mushroom soft and that deteriorate after a few weeks do not cause a threat to your tree. These are the most common characteristics of harmful fungi:
- They are conks woody and perennial.
- There are many structures of fungi. This indicates that the tree is in an advanced stage of decay.
- Its location is on a bark opening.
Often there could be internal decay without signs. The cause of this decay is due to cracks, seams, butt swell, dead branch stubs and large, older cuts.
The decay fungi need an opening in tree bark to enter the tree such as wounds caused by lightning, fire, insects, birds and other animals. The wind can make branches rub each other and remove the bark. Avoid human activities such as carving initials in the bark.
Be aware of cankers
These diseases are perennial and aggressive that enlarge over time increasing the risks. Trees are more likely to break at a wound or canker when the wind is in same or in an opposite direction. Most trees fail during winds of 40 mph, but some on a still day.
Vertical cracks or seam along the trunk show internal defects. A hollow tree not always mean that the tree is hazardous. Vigorous trees can grow sound wood around the hollow compensating for the decay.
They are very important because they absorb water and essential elements and it anchors the tree to the ground.
Negligent construction increases the probability of failure when they damage the tree root system. If 50% of the roots are compromised, you need to to do a tree removal.
Roots damaged by decay or cutting make the tree susceptible to windthrow. Factors like soil depth and drainage cause uprooting.
Here are above ground clues of poor root conditions:
- Thin crowns with dwarfed off-color yellowish leaves
- Stunted growth
- Soil compaction
- Construction activities
- Soil fill
- Root rot fungi
Not all the mushroom that grows under the trees state a root disease. Experience with fungi is useful during an inspection.
What should you do?
You should inspect every tree that is likely to have problems. To prevent accidents, you have to do these inspections periodic and thorough. At least once a year, but we recommend two (summer and winter).
To keep the tree in the landscape, on rare occasions, you can do pruning, cabling and bracing. But most often tree removal is the only solution to a hazardous tree.
Prevention is the best action, you should start a health program as soon as possible. If you want to prevent many problems in the future, always do a proper choice and placement of the trees. Homeowners often create hazards when they buy and plant a tree with no planning.
During construction take special care of your trees. Be attentive when installing a driveway and digging utility lines. Do not let the construction equipment scrape the bark from the trees. Signs of construction stress on trees show up either immediately or years ahead.
If you are ready to do your homeowner’s tree inspection, grab a pair of binoculars. Or use your smartphone that way you can take pictures in case you need to document and share your findings. We have prepared a “dangerous trees characteristics infographic” you can download and take to use as a reference.
Be cautious, trees are unpredictable, they do not always fall when and where you think. Don’t solve a problem and create another. When in doubt, contact your favorite tree professional. An experienced individual can spot problems, not visible to others. For those in and near Jacksonville, Florida, call Pyramid Lawn & Tree Services. They can help you with all your tree and lawn needs.