Storm Damaged Trees

I hope this finds everyone recovered from the recent ice storm. It backed up our workload by two weeks but things seem to be back to normal. Fortunately, few trees were lost but numerous limbs were damaged.

I am always amazed to see how much excess weight a tree branch can hold. Wood is an incredible product with properties that allow it to move and bend. The wood in a tree is made from a material called LIGNIN. Lignin has helped trees survive for millions of years.

The properties of lignin allow wood to bend. It makes it flexible. Imagine a tree with branches that could not bend and flex. This phenomenon actually helps us coexist with our trees in the urban forest.
The results from this storm reinforced the importance of proper, biological tree care.

Here is an interesting observation; none of the trees on which we had worked in the past suffered any storm damage! Now that makes an arborist take notice! By judiciously removing weak branches, deadwood and acutely attached limbs or leads, our trees were able to withstand and support the additional weight of the ice.

By having the knowledge and foresight to remove all but the tree’s natural scaffold, these trees weathered the storm. Conversely, trees such as bradford pear and some maples suffered serious damage.

Due to the poor branch attachments of bradford pears many split or at the very least lost limbs. Removing one side of a weak crotch when the trees are young, may help trees that develop this “V” shaped crotch pattern survive such environmental stresses. In the case of Bradfords, however, an attempt to repair this genetic misfortune seems futile.

So what did we learn or remember?

Most importantly, our choice of excellent young plant material, planted in the right spot is paramount. When you plant, choose trees that have a single central leader with branches occurring on the trunk as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. Prune out all deadwood and suckers from your trees. These suckers usually conflict with existing branches by growing straight up through the crown.

Choose trees that are native to this area. They can adapt themselves to environmental stresses more efficiently than non-natives. Are you curious about which native trees and shrubs do well in the Mid-Atlantic? If so, send me an e-mail and I’ll try to help you find the right one, or try your local nursery or extension office for a list of our area's best.

Keeping our trees safe is always the first consideration in a preventive tree care program. By listening to our trees and educating ourselves about them we can do the right thing for our valuable plant material. They deserve it and we can make a difference.

Winter will soon be moving aside for the beauty spring has to offer. I look forward to enjoying its sights and sounds with you. If you have any questions about your plants, please call me personally at 703-501-0417. I wish you all good health for both you and your plants! Peter.

Copyright 2005 by Peter Deahl. All rights reserved.

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