Archive for April, 2010

Emergency Tree Removal in Durham

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Last week we received a call from a mortgage company that owns a vacant property in Durham where a major section of a willow oak had fallen into the house, causing a considerable amount of damage. Thank goodness the house was vacant, otherwise there may have been injuries! For good reason, they needed us to remove the tree immediately. Once we arrived on site, the first order of business was to assess the situation. The tree was located near the back of the house and formed a fork approximately five feet from the ground. Rot had developed in the fork, which weakened the structure of the entire tree. Thanks to an encouraging push from the wind, the smaller of the two trunks fell on top of the house, crashing through the roof and walls.

Tree fallen into house in Durham NC

Because of the delicate nature of this job, we certainly needed to use our crane. After setting up the crane in the street right in front of the house, we began the process of extracting the portion of the tree that was, quite literally, IN the house.Our climber secured himself to the end of the crane’s attachment and the crane operator carefully raised him onto the roof.

Leaf & Limb Tree Service climber being raised onto roof via crane

Once there, our climber wrapped cables around an individual section of the tree top, which he then connected to the crane. As he cut the section free, the operator slowly moved it to an open area in the street where the rest of the crew was able to chip the branches and cut the logs in appropriate lengths.

Leaf & Limb crew cleaning up tree

This process was repeated until all that remained was the tree trunk. Next, our climber focused on the tree trunk, which caused the bulk of the damage and was still situated within the house. At this point, the key was to remove the log without causing further damage to the house.

Removing tree trunk via crane

With a little expert maneuvering from our crane operator, we were able to guide the log out of the house along its drop path, then up and over the house. Phase one was complete! Next we turned our attention to the remaining portion of the tree. Although it was still standing and look reasonably healthy at first glance, it too had rotting issues near the base. This was an accident waiting to happen and needed to be removed before it could cause any further harm. Again, we implemented our crane in tandem with our expert climber. Our climber ascended the tree and positioned himself in the canopy where he was able to begin securing cables around sections of the tree top.

Leaf & Limb Tree Service ascends tree

As he cut each section, the crane operator lifted it over the house towards the street. Section by section, segment by segment, we reduced the tree to a standing trunk. The last task was to attach the cables to the trunk, cut it free, lift it over the house, and load it onto our waiting truck. At this point, the tree was completely removed. Now it was simply a matter of cleaning the debris, hauling away the logs, raking the yard, and blowing the street. Dare I say, QED? Yes, I dare – but only because we’re pros at this sort of thing ;)

Record Levels of Pollen in North Carolina

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

It is hard to decide what caused more accumulation, the blizzard from a few months ago or this year’s bumper crop of tree pollen! In all seriousness, the pollen this year is one for the record books. According to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Natural Resources’ Air Quality Division Pollen at record levels in North Carolina(just be glad you do not have to write that name on your return address every day!), the pollen levels in North Carolina are the highest they have been since the agency began to record pollen buildup in the late 1990s. According to its press release from last week, the agency measured a sample that contained 3,524 pollen grains per cubic meter at its Raleigh office and a sample from Winston-Salem that contained 9,632 grains per cubic meter! To put this in perspective, a normal pollen count during this time of year falls somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 grains per cubic meter.

Experts believe that that the sudden transition from a prolonged cold winter to a warm spring is to blame for the abnormally high levels of pollen. The protracted cold delayed tree species that normally begin to bloom early. Then once the abrupt change took place, everything bloomed all at once leading to a concentrated onslaught of pollen

The good news is that due to recent rainfall, tree pollen is finally washing away. For those of us who suffer from pollen allergies, we can breathe sighs of relief and look forward to warm spring days with no sneezing, no throbbing sinuses, and no headaches. Well, there is always grass and weed pollen to look forward to in the summer… But we will worry about that later. ¡Viva la Spring!

Just FYI, for those who are interested in pollen forecasts and all things pollen-related, be sure to check out

The World’s Oldest Trees

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Trees can grow to astoundingly old ages. As a matter of fact, trees (along with certain other plants such as Namibia’s famous Welwitschia) make up some of the oldest known living organisms on the planet. Certain types of trees have attained incredible longevity through a number of unique capabilities, such as the ability to replace lost or damaged organs (above and below ground), a sectored vascular system that allows portions of the tree to survive whether or not the rest of the tree is alive, the formation of clone shoots whereby an existing shoot can produce a genetically identical offshoot, synthesis of defensive compounds to ward off invaders, a hormonal control system, and much more. Trees are indeed fascinating organisms!

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the world’s oldest trees:

1. Methuselah: With a death-defying 4,842 years under its belt, this Great Basin bristlecone pine deserves its name. This is considered to be the oldest non-clonal organism (i.e., individual plant) on the planet. Stop and think about that for just a moment. This tree was a sapling at the dawn of the Egyptian civilization, hundreds of years old during the building of Stonehenge, and by the time Chinese civilization was just beginning on the banks of the Yellow River, Methuselah was already over 500 hundred years old. This is truly a staggering thought.

Methuselah is located 10,000 feet above sea level in Inyo National Forest in California. But in an effort to protect the tree from vandalism, its exact location remains a closely-held secret protected by the U.S. Forest Service. The below picture is not an actual picture of Methuselah, but it likely looks very similar.

Methuselah Great Basin bristlecone pine

2. Pando: Also known as the Trembling Giant, Pando is a clonal colony of a single male Quaking Aspen located in Utah. Each genetically-identical individual tree (or “stem”) is connected by a single root system. Spreading across more than 100 acres, Pando is believed to be over 80,000 years old and collectively weighs over 6,600 tons, making it the heaviest organism on the planet, as well as one of the oldest.

Pando - a grove of Quaking Aspens also known as the Trembling Giant

3. Sarv-e Abarqu: The “Cypress of Abarqu” is an ancient cypress tree located in Abarkooh, Iran. Also known as the Zoroastrian Sarv, this tree took root between 4,000 and 4,500 years ago, making it the oldest living organism in Asia.

Sarv-e Abarqu is also known as the Cypress of Abarqu and Zoroastrian Sarv

4. Llangernyw Yew: A rural, Welsh-speaking village in north Wales is the site of Llangernyw Yew, the world’s third oldest, non-clonal tree. Located in the graveyard of St. Digain’s parish church, among primitive stone crosses made during the Dark Ages, this mighty yew tree has stood here for nearly 4,000 years.

Llangernyw Yew in rural north Wales

5. Jurupa Oak: If you were to walk up a certain unassuming hill in southern California, you would probably walk right past a stand of small, gnarled oak trees growing from within a pile of boulders. Yet, you would have just passed one of the oldest organisms in the world: a grove of clonal Palmer’s oaks believed to be over 13,000 years old. The shoots only measures a few feet tall and they grow outward from the site of the original shoot at a rate of approximately one-twentieth of an inch per year. They rely on fire to burn down the stems and trigger new growth. Unfortunately for the Jurupa Oak, suburban California is encroaching on all sides.

Jurupa Oak in southern California

6. Old Tjikko: Who would think such a scraggy tree could be so old? Do not let looks deceive you. This 16-foot tall Norway Spruce, situated in the scrubby Fulufjället Mountains of Sweden, is an incredible 9,550 years old! This is the world’s oldest single-stemmed clonal tree. The actual tree trunk itself is only a few hundred years old – it is the root system that has stayed alive for nearly 10,000 years.

Old Tjikko

7. Alerce Tree: In 1993 scientists discovered this 150-foot tall Patagonian Cypress in the Andes Mountains of Chile. Unlike the Llangernyw Yew and the Sarv-e Abarqu, Alerce has been given an exact age of 3,637 years old using tree-ring width chronology. This makes it the second oldest tree to have its exact age calculated.

Alerce tree in Andes Mountains of Chile

8. The Senator: This is a Bald Cypress located in Big Tree Park in Florida. It is estimated to be nearly 3,500 years old and was once used as a landmark by Seminole Indians and other local tribes. It also holds the title of biggest tree by volume east of the Mississippi.

The Senator is a Bald Cypress located in Florida

These are just a small handful of the world’s oldest trees. There are many other ancient and mighty trees throughout the world. For example, the Jardine Juniper in Utah, General Sherman (the Giant Sequoia) in California, Jomon Sugi in Japan, Kongeegen in Denmark, the Chestnut Tree of One Hundred Horses in Sicily, the Olive Tree of Vouves in Greece, and many, many more. These trees have all stood the test of time and occupied our planet for the better part of known history.

Thanks goes out to Growth Rings Blog and Science for helping inspire today’s post.

Tree Care for Crape Myrtles

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Originally from China, crape myrtles are truly beautiful trees. With their colorful flower blooms and delicate, exfoliating bark, it is no wonder that crape myrtles have become a favorite for homeowners and landscapers all across North Carolina and the rest of the South. Here at Leaf & Limb Tree Service we receive numerous inquiries from individuals asking what they should do to ensure the well-being of their crape myrtles. Here is some general information about caring for these trees:Crape Myrtles

  1. Pruning: Crape myrtles usually need little pruning in order to develop a strong structure. But there are some basic pruning techniques that can enhance the tree’s beauty and bloom capacity. First of all, remove dead branches, lower branches very near the ground, suckers growing from the base, and small twiggy branches inside the foliage. Second, you should select one to five strong shoots arising from (or near) ground level to be the tree’s main stems. Remove all others. The remaining shoots now form the tree’s central framework. These main stems will support the flowering branches (known as laterals and sublaterals). Third, prune one out of every three lateral and sublateral back to the main framework. This will stimulate new growth that matures to bear flowers through the summer. Last, for crape myrtles located in cooler areas, especially in northern regions where the growing season is short, the canopy should be further thinned out in order to let light and air into the center of the tree, thereby discouraging disease.
  2. Fertilizer: Crape myrtles generally grow best in soil with a pH of 4.5 to 7.5. But even if the soil conditions are not ideal, crape myrtles need very little fertilizer, since they are hardy trees. For older plants, sickly plants, or plants in especially bad soil, a light application of 5-10-5 fertilizer applied in the spring when growth begins should do the trick
  3. Sunlight: Crape myrtles thrive in full sunlight and full heat. If your crape myrtle is planted in the shade, look for ways to increase sunlight, such as trimming nearby trees. If you are getting ready to plant your crape myrtle, choose a spot that has plenty of sun.
  4. Water: Crape myrtles, particularly those that are well established, are drought resistant. Crape myrtles need a minimal amount of water and prefer well drained soil. Therefore you should avoid excessive watering.
  5. Flowers: Excessive watering, too much fertilizer, not enough sun, and too little heat can all cause a dearth of flowering. These actions promote more vegetative growth, which results in less flowers.Flower blooms on a Crape Myrtle
  6. Powdery Mildew: Though there are a handful of resistant varieties, most crape myrtles are susceptible to mildew. This is the most common disease on crape myrtles. If there is a white or grey powder film on the leaves and flower buds of your crape myrtle, it may have powdery mildew. This is a fungal disease that causes damage by halting photosynthesis and other basic life processes of the leaves and buds, which harms the tree. It can be eradicated by applying any fungicide that is labeled for mildew on a weekly basis until the flower buds open. In addition, thinning out branches in order to allow sun and air flow penetration into the canopy can help reduce susceptibility to mildew problems.
  7. Aphids: These are yellowish green insects that can cover the underside of the crape myrtle’s leaves and cause damage by sucking sap out of the tree. In addition, they produce sticky honeydew drops that get all over the tree itself as well as nearby decks, chairs, cars, and patios. These pests are controlled by predators, such as lady bugs. But if you are using pesticides, it may be killing the predators and not the aphids. Quit using pesticides and see what happens – it should allow the predator population to grow and they in turn will eat the aphids. If that does not work, try spraying your crape myrtles with insecticidal soap, such as Safer’s Soap, or with an oil product, such as Neem Oil Spray or a paraffinic oil.
  8. Japanese Beetles: Whole books can be (and have been) written about controlling Japanese Beetle infestations. Here are some of the basics. If you are able to start early before there are too many Japanese Beetles, hand removal is the most effective control method. Japanese BeetleThe best time to do this is early in the morning, when the beetles are still sluggish. The goal is to remove the beetles while they are emerging, before they have a chance to emit pheromones. Just pluck the beetles from the tree, reaching from above (so they cannot fly away) and drop them in a bucket of soapy water. A variation to this method, which can be used if a) there are many beetles or b) you do not want to touch these critters, is to simply place a bucket of water underneath a branch or cluster of flowers, then tap the branch. The beetles usually fall to the ground when disturbed and they will land in the water. Again, the early morning is the best time to do this since the beetles are generally still lethargic. Other methods include: 1) Use a shop vacuum to suck up the beetles. 2) blend dead beetles with some water, then spray this on the plant. Many farmers swear this method is most effective. 3) Blend garlic and hot peppers in water and spray this on the trees. 4) Shower the trees with a commercial garlic spray used to deter mosquitoes. This usually works with beetles as well. 5) Encourage birds to take up residence by placing birdbaths, feeders, and nesting boxes nearby. Birds, especially Starlings, love eating Japanese Beetles. There are many other methods for getting rid of these pests, but do keep two things in mind: First, Japanese Beetle traps are a bad idea. They generally attract more beetles than they kill, which leaves an excess of new bugs to prey on your trees and plants. Second, it is usually not worth spraying Japanese Beetles with pesticides since this will also kill aphid predators and likely lead to an explosion in the aphid population.

The good news is that crape myrtles are very tough trees. They do not need much care in order to survive. But if given a little extra TLC, your crape myrtles are sure to be especially healthy trees full of lovely flower blossoms.