glyphs-new

Why Dead Wood is Good Wood

Helen Yoest from Bee Better Naturally explains why you should consider leaving a dead tree where it stands.

This article is guest post from this month's "Ask an Expert": Helen Yoest of Bee Better Naturally. Thanks to Helen for letting us share her widsom!

We Americans tend to find broken things worthless. In our disposable society, if it’s chipped, cracked, crushed, or tattered, we carry it to the trash. We even do so with our trees. Think about it, we have a tree that died. Now what? We call in the tree service to remove the tree. We may or may not grind the stump; this decision is most likely based on where it is. If the stump is easily accessed, then grinding is likely. Mind you, if it is easily accessed, it typically is in an unsightly place. Thus, call in the grinder!

What if you understood the purpose of dead wood? Would you be more likely to keep a snag?

Snags are nothing more than dead trees that are left upright to decay naturally. With the tops removed and ensuring the snag isn’t in harm's way of you or your neighbor's property as it decomposes, leaving a partial tree trunk has many benefits. It has wildlife value, and thus, not at all worthless, but wondrous!

Nationwide dead trees provide vital habitat for greater than 1,000 species of wildlife. For the wildlife, every part of a dead tree, in all stages of decay, provide benefits.

If your garden is a certified wildlife habitat, you know the process required reporting for food, water, shelter, and a place to raise their young. A snag provides all of these except a water source. Here are a few ways snags help our native wildlife:

  • Many wildlife are cavity dwellers, so snags provide shelter and a place raise their young, making their homes in hollow cavities and crevices including bats, birds, raccoons, and squirrels.
  • Deadwood becomes a food buffet for wildlife looking for a meal by attracting fungi, insects, lichens, and mosses. Hardwood trees, like maples and oaks, tend to make better nesting habitats. Softer wood, like pine, are better for food foraging. Snags also provide ideal hiding places when escaping predators. Additionally, tree holes, nooks, and crannies offer secret places for squirrels and other critters looking to store food.
  • Many birds such as hawks and eagles like to sit in good vantage points. A snag with a center trunk in the open is an excellent location for hunting prey.

Keep Snags, Saving Lives

If you have read this far, I like to think this idea of keeping snags is something you’ll consider. Despite the importance of snags to wildlife, homeowners typically want the dead tree removed. Indeed, most tree services recommend the removal of dead trees in an attempt to control pests and fungi, as well as aesthetic points of view. However, a snag can be beautiful while providing the example to share with visitors and friends.

What about termites? Do you know termites naturally live in our ground? As long as the snag a stone’s throw away, or other measurable, reasonable distance from your home, termites and other pests won’t find their way into your home through a snag.

Can a property have too many snags? Well, that depends on your property size. At the Bee Better Naturally Teaching garden, we currently have one that is nearly finished its nitrogen cycle (slowing breaking away in chunks.) We have another snag of a western pine. Western pines are better suited to colder climates, like the mountains of NC, so we lost her. We still had one for 20 year. I loved the cones. And finally, in the near future, we hope to add four more snags from living loblolly pine trees.

When you should remove a snag? As mentioned above, make sure your dead wood isn’t resting on your house; it becomes a bridge for too many pests. You also don’t want the snag to be in harm's way as it decays and falling on your home or your neighbor’s property. In both cases, you can consider moving the wood for its benefits laying down to use as a natural log.

Be the change. Be the example. Be the light. Leave a snag for your wildlife and better thenvironment.

This article is shared with permission by Helen Yoest of Bee Better Naturally. Bee Better Naturally educates homeowners, community leaders, and developers the importance of sustainable, organic, and water-wise garden design, with a focus on the specific plants to sustain the lifecycle of migrating and resident birds, bees, and butterflies.

Like this article? Pass it on.

Related Articles

Top 10 Most Surprising Benefits of Trees
Best Native Trees for Butterflies
From Dead Dirt to Healthy Soil in 7 Simple Steps
Right Tree, Right Place: What to Plant and Where to Plant it
Why Dead Wood is Good Wood
Video | Want more birds in your backyard? Plant these native trees.
Best Native Trees for Butterflies
Fall & Winter Tree Care Checklist
Video | Fall Tree Care Checklist: Leave your Leaves, Plant New Trees, and Other Important Tasks
Top 10 Most Surprising Benefits of Trees
How I Learned to Love to My Trees
Video | Trees are Critical to Our Future
Think Your Tree is Dead? Look a Little Closer
How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree
Video | How to Spot the Warning Signs: Dead, Dying or Hazardous Trees
Right Tree, Right Place: What to Plant and Where to Plant it
Video | How To: Choosing the Right Tree for Any Location
Our Favorite Tree Recommendations for Tricky Areas
Using Fertilizer? Think Twice Before You Do.
The #1 Reason Most Soil Tests Don't Work
Friend or Foe: When to Take Action Against Pests
The Insect Apocalypse is Here. How Can You Help?
16 Fascinating Facts About Fungi
Mycorrhizal Fungi: The Unsung Heroes of Tree Care
Case Study: Watch How Soil Improvement Turned this Tree from Sickly to Stately
From Dead Dirt to Healthy Soil in 7 Simple Steps
6 Pruning Mistakes to Avoid
How to Install and Enjoy Your Rain Gauge
Help Save the Monarch Butterflies!
4 Fascinating Facts About Mistletoe
Proper Care for Newly Planted Trees
8 Ways to Accidentally Kill Your Tree When Planting
Drop that Rake! Why Leaving the Leaves is Vital to Your Plant's Health
Save Time This Fall: Leave Your Leaves
Video | How To: The Fundamentals Of Watering
Video | The Fundamentals of Mulch: Proper Care, Installation, and Selection
Too Many Choices: Which Mulch or Weed Barrier Should I Choose?
When Good Mulch Goes Bad
How To: The Fundamentals of Mulch Installation
Five Ways to Spot a Thirsty Tree or Shrub
Soaker Hoses, Irrigation Systems, and Treegators, Oh My!
Drought Resistant Trees
How To: The Fundamentals of Watering
The Joy of Planting Native Trees in Durham, North Carolina
Brightening Up Neighborhoods Across Durham
Changing lives one seed at a time in Durham
Soil Decompaction - An Essential for Good Tree Health
Emerald Ash Borer is in NC!
Cabling & Bracing - Options for Making Your Tree Safer
Tree Care for Crape Myrtles
How to Prevent Tree Damage
Help! My Tree Has a Disease!
Dragon’s Blood Tree
Deep Root Fertilization: Myths & The Truth
The Dangerous Truth About Ghost Insurance Policies
Stump Removal - The Mighty Stump Grinder!
Happy Trees Begin With Proper Planting
Trees & Shrubs Need Check-Ups Too!
How To Protect Your Trees from a Lightning Strike
Mulching: A Cheap, Easy Way to Increase the Health of Your Trees!
Crape Myrtles: A Tale of Love, Murder, and Proper Pruning
The World's Oldest Trees
Help! Insects are Attacking my Trees & Shrubs!
Tree Care: Save Money and Increase Your Property Value
Root Collar Excavation is Critical to Your Tree's Survival!
Tree Risk Assessment: The Key to Safer Trees & Peace of Mind!
10 Tips on How to Choose the Right Tree Service and Avoid Scams
Happy Trees Grow From Healthy Soil
TCIA Accreditation: Empowering You With Confidence
What is Tree Care?
Mulch Volcanoes: the Mt. St. Helens of Tree Problems
Trees Need a Thriving Soil Food Web
Call Leaf & Limb