Check trees for signs of damage

The snowstorm on October 29th caused a lot of damage to trees as wet snow accumulated on canopies that still had full leaf cover. Hardest hit was the northwest portion of Frederick County, where 6 to 12 inches of snow fell. Many trees were damaged, loosing limbs, large branches, whole sections and, in some cases, the entire tree.

The form and weak wood structure of Bradford pears make them susceptible to storm damage.

Credit: - Mike Kay

As the snows covered smaller trees, many bent over or contorted; they may never recover their natural shape. While some trees were affected, other nearby trees showed little or no damage. Many factors influenced the effects of the snow on trees: amount of leaf cover, species, growth habits, strength of the wood, presence of rot in the tree, week branch attachment, size of root system, location and the presence of vines in the tree among them.

Although it is impossible to eliminate all the damage freak storms like this can inflict, we can lessen the severity by taking such measures as inspecting the trees around your property and removing trees that are dead, severely declining, have large areas of rot or have a pronounced lean. Trees that have weak branching patterns or fragile wood, such as silver maple, willow, ailanthus, elms, box elders, Bradford pear and black cherry, are very prone to storm damage and do not make desirable landscape trees around the home.

In addition, selectively pruning dead, overextended, leaning and otherwise undesirable limbs from a living tree can make the tree healthier and help eliminate potential hazards. Most of us do not have the know-how to improve the trees around our homes, but professional arborists do.

If you are one of the unfortunate landowners that have damaged trees, you should do a visual assessment of the trees around your home or yard. It is best to wait until the snow has melted and it is safer to be outside, unless it is obvious that an unsafe condition exists. Look for splits in the tree, large damaged branches hanging down from the tree, leaning trees (especially if the ground is heaved up beside them), heavily damaged trees, trees lying on the ground and twisted or broken trees.

If any of these exist, it is best to contact a licensed tree expert (arborist) to correct the problem. Even if the threat of danger has diminished, a competent arborist can promote the healing of a damaged tree by carefully pruning broken branch stubs and sections of the tree. Or they can attempt to restore the balance of a tree that has lost several large branches.

Having the tree expert license means that the individual has the necessary ability and knowledge to work on trees, and it also means they carry liability insurance to cover any damage that might occur to your property or themselves as they attempt to correct a hazardous condition. If you hire someone who is not a licensed tree expert, any damage that occurs to your property or the workers will be your legal responsibility. Licensed tree experts can be found by looking in the phone book under Tree Care, and their tree expert license should be visible on the advertisement.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Notes for 11/13/2011