Every year trees cause incredible damage to people and property.
In the most tragic of situations, trees even cause death.
This occurred here in Raleigh recently when a tree fell into a house and killed a woman. What makes this incident particularly sad is that it could have been prevented. Authorities believe the tree fell due to decay at the base of the trunk. Apparently a large portion of the tree broke off during previous years, leaving an exposed gap at the bottom of the trunk, which led to rot. When a storm blew through the area, the base gave way and the tree collapsed. Had the deterioration been identified earlier, and had the tree been removed under controlled circumstances, this tragedy could have been prevented.
In order to prevent tree-related harm, it is essential that you identify potential problems early, before they turn into actual problems.
As a homeowner or as somebody who oversees property where trees are present, it is very important that you regularly assess the health of your trees.
As much as we all love and appreciate trees, they can be dangerous. Here are a few issues to watch out for:
- Are there dead trees on your property? For dead trees, it is a matter of “when” they will fall, not “if.” Dead trees are typically problematic if located near a home, office complex, or area where people are often present. But do keep in mind, just because a tree is dead does not necessarily make it dangerous. Dead trees do provide a tremendous number of benefits to our wildlife, insects, and ecosystems.
- Are there trees with dead branches? Dead branches will eventually fall, and when they do, they have the potential to punch holes in roofs, dent cars, break sheds, or hurt people. But, not every dead branch needs to be removed. If the branch does not pose any immediate danger, it may be best to leave it in place the benefit our ecosystems.
- Are there any branches hanging without attachment over areas where people often walk? In our industry, we have a special term for hanging branches: “widowmakers.” You get the idea.
- Are there trees with holes or rot at the base? Is this tree located in an area where it could harm people or property? If so, there is a good chance that the base of the tree is weak, which means it has the potential to fall and cause damage at any time.
- Are mushrooms, cracks, splits, or any other indicators of a rotting or compromised tree present along the base of its trunk? If so, this tree may need to be removed.
- Do you have a tree where branches regularly fall? Not only are the falling branches themselves a hazard, but this could be an indicator of a larger problem.
- Do you have trees that lean strongly in one direction? In conjunction with the lean, are there roots lifting out of the ground on the back side of the tree? If so, this tree should be carefully assessed, particularly if it is leaning towards a house, office, garage, sidewalk, etc.
- Are there large branches with open, old, or rotting wounds? A branch like this has a higher likelihood of falling as compared to a healthy branch.
These are just a few of the many potential problems to look for as you assess your trees.
Remember, the key to preventing tree damage is to identify potential issues early, before they turn into serious problems.
As you identify these potential issues, you should also carefully assess whether they actually pose danger to people or property, or can be left in place to benefit birds, beetles, insects, and other important members of our ecosystems. If you do not feel comfortable doing this yourself, or if you simply do not have the time, call your local tree experts and ask them to assess the health of your trees.