Common Tree Problems
Since many tree problems are easily identified, experts advise regularly examining your trees and looking for potential problems. Trained arborists can also help spot issues early on, suggest preventative measures, and educate homeowners on telltale warning signs. Keep in mind this is not an all-inclusive guide to tree issues; afflictions vary greatly based on the location and type of tree.
Dead branches. Dead branches present a risk of falling, are unsightly, permit decay to enter the tree, and serve no useful purpose to the tree. They should be promptly removed.
Fungus and mushrooms. Fungus and mushrooms growing on a tree or around the base of a tree are signs of decaying or rotting wood or roots. When a tree’s roots decay or rot, the tree is dying. As the roots weaken, the tree loses support and is more likely to fall or split. If the problem is identified early enough, a knowledgeable professional tree service may be able to save the tree.
Dead trees. Because dead trees do not sprout leaves, they are easily identified in the spring. A dead tree should be removed promptly, especially if it is in an area where it could inflict damage or injure someone if it fell. In fact, dead tree removal is the most common tree service job.
Missing bark. Bark is a protective portion of the tree, so large areas of missing bark indicate a sick tree, and they can lead to insect infestation.
Beetles and borers. Both beetles and borers are small insects that attack and often kill trees. They tunnel into the bark to lay their eggs and deposit fungus, which later feeds their young when they hatch. The tunnels and the fungus disrupt sap flow and ultimately kill the tree. By the time most attacks are discovered, the infested tree is doomed. However, quick action may save the surrounding trees from contracting the infestation from the afflicted tree.
Girdling roots. Trees that are planted too deeply or otherwise improperly are at risk for root girdling. Girdling roots are roots that have gradually wrapped themselves around the trunk of a tree at its base or below the soil. These tightly wrapped roots can prevent the tree from getting necessary water and nutrients, which weakens the tree, leaves it susceptible to insects and disease, and eventually leads to its premature death. Trees with girdling roots can be identified by their deformed lower trunks. Sometimes, girdling roots can even be seen at the base of the tree. An arborist will be able to assess the situation and determine whether the problem roots can be safely removed to improve the tree’s health.
Raised earth around the tree base. Raised or broken earth around the tree base may be a sign that the tree is starting to uproot and potentially fall, especially in a strong storm.
Things to Consider
Liability is significant. According to industry sources, if you feel that a neighbor’s tree could potentially cause damage to your house or property, you should consider requesting via certified letter that the tree be removed. Such a letter may help your case or claim if the tree does later fall and inflict damage.
Climbing spikes are damaging. Climbing spikes, devices that strap to a tree climber’s feet, allow the climber to support his or her weight while climbing. Because spikes damage the tree bark, climbing spikes should never be used on any tree you are trying to save; it is only acceptable to use climbing spikes on a tree that is being removed.
Tree topping can kill. Although tree topping, or cutting off the top of the tree, is a common practice, tree care experts do not recommend it. Instead, the preferred technique is known as crown reduction, which involves removing specific branches at or near the treetop. Whereas tree topping can easily kill the tree, crown reduction is far less damaging. Experts do not recommend removing more than a quarter of a tree’s branches at one time.
Difficulty drives removal cost. Experts frequently remove even difficult trees with little damage to other trees, plants, landscaping, and lawns. Doing so can be an involved and expensive task. Companies offering to remove a tree by cutting into the base and allowing it to fall freely are not offering protection for other areas of your property. When assessing quotes, make sure to compare them according to the removal method that each proposes.
Landscaping can kill a tree. According to the experts, trees breathe through their roots. In fact, adding a mere six inches of soil on top of a tree’s root system can suffocate it.
Permits may be required. Many city and county governments regulate tree removal and require inspections and permits. Additionally, in some subdivisions, the homeowners’ association must approve a tree removal. Although getting the proper permits and approvals is technically the responsibility of the homeowner, many high-quality tree services will remind you to get them and, in some cases, even assist in the process of procuring them.
Payment should be withheld until work is finished. Some homeowners who pay for tree services before the work and cleanup are completed find that cleanup promises are quickly forgotten. Withholding payment until cleanup is complete gives the tree service a financial incentive to finish the job properly.
Protecting Tree Roots
A tree’s root system typically extends out from the trunk a distance roughly equal to three-quarters of the tree’s height. Companies from various industries might hack through one or more trees’ root systems while replacing sewer lines or water lines, installing irrigation systems or utilities, or even installing some types of fencing.
If you find yourself in need of these kinds of work, make sure that the company you use either avoids the tree root systems altogether or takes precautions to minimize damage. If a trench must go through a tree’s root system, consult with a professional arborist before beginning the project.
Hiring a Professional
Due to the heights involved, tree work is very dangerous. Professional tree workers can be seriously injured or even killed on the job. A falling tree or branch can damage a home, a vehicle, or other property. Note also that the term “tree service” applies to any company specializing in tree removal, trimming, or doctoring. However, only seek advice from individuals who are qualified as experts in the field, such as Certified Arborists. Someone with a chain saw and a tree service business card may recommend the same solution—i.e., removal—for every problem. Reputable companies will recommend what is best for the homeowner, not just their bottom line.