Many trees near your house can become hazardous during storms. Prepare for extreme weather by learning how to spot weak spots in trees.
Trees are also stressed by early stresses such as being planted too deep, receiving insufficient water at the time of establishment or forgetting stakes. Urban forests are often affected by droughts, compaction of soil, damage from herbicides, excessive fertilization, and improper pruning.
The danger increases as the decline escalates. Consult the USDA Forest Service Manual and your local Extension office to obtain materials and programs about proper planting, establishment and pruning.
To ensure safety for people and their property, you should recognize and prevent tree damage. You can also rely on an arborist to provide accurate risk assessments.
Does my tree pose a danger? It could be near a possible target such as a home, driveway or playground equipment. The tree is old, and in good condition. Tree stress can be identified by dieback, falling limbs and less foliage in the spring.
Some trees are not good at self-pruning, and will leave dead branches but they are relatively harmless in the crown. Certain species of trees have a naturally lighter-green foliage which may look like an illness.
Root issues can have a negative impact on a tree. These include shallow roots systems, damaged and decayed roots, as well as a restricted space for the root system. Another common, but very serious issue is stem girdling. When root collars get buried under soil or mulch, they can cause a tree’s bark to deteriorate. They can also affect its vascular system. It may happen suddenly or it may take many years for the impact to become evident. Root issues can cause crowns to be sparse or even isolated.
Cracks are weak areas in the trunk caused by bending, twisting, frost, inclusion of bark, and roots around the trunk. It is important to take immediate action if two cracks or more appear at the same time or if splits in the bark reach the wood of the tree.
A canker that covers more than 50% of the circumference should be treated immediately. The canker may appear sunken, swollen or flattened. It could also be dead, absent, crackled, rounded, or cracked. They can be caused by disease or wounds.
The decaying trees are at greater risk of failure than the ones that do not. According to a study conducted by University of Maryland Extension, decayed or missing wood in cavities, as well as fungal growth, are signs of a possible failure of a tree. Arborists can evaluate the safety of decomposing trees.
Codominant stems are formed when two or three upright branches are grown closely together. This can lead to “included” or “ingrown” bark forming wedges between branches. Callery pears, in addition to having an upright growth pattern and defects such as included bark, are also notorious for tearing apart when there is a strong wind. Maple, Ash, and Elm are also species which form codominant branches.
Dead branches and trees should be removed as quickly as possible. It is important to remove dead wood as soon as possible. Dead wood can be brittle, and it is less flexible than live wood. This makes it more susceptible to breaking in strong winds. The dead branches have already been partially or completely detached from their crowns, which is why they can be so dangerous.
Multiple defects can affect trees at once. Rarely is it a single issue which causes a decline in the health of a tree, but primarily combining issues. Checking trees regularly can minimize the risk of problems and help prevent them, particularly in cases where there are already problems. It is important to check trees after a storm event in order to determine whether any additional damage occurred, or if existing problems have progressed.
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