Do Your Trees Look SCARY?
As a tree-lover it breaks my heart to see the trees around our community in such a state, but what gives me more anxiety is worrying that people may be removing trees that CAN RECOVER!
|My Backyard - Pecan failure at a Co-Dominant Stem|
I know it looks bad, but generally the trees will come back from this with proper care.
Some things to consider:
All the arborists in Norman are slammed so if all you need is for brush to be hauled away that has already fallen to the ground, you really do not need a certified arborist to do that. (But make sure they are insured through worker’s compensation and liability). After the clean-up is done, try to get a certified arborist out to assess the damage. The International Society of Arboriculture has a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification that would be a good thing to look for as they are trained to assess risk in trees. The list of certified arborists in our area can be found here and it will note if they have the ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification: https://www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist/findanarborist
I highly recommend not allowing the “fly by night” operations make cuts to your trees. They tend to do poor work that will need remediation later, don’t have insurance (or have let it lapse) and rarely clean their saws to avoid spreading disease.
Trees are long-lived organisms. Therefore, when you are considering the restoration of your damaged tree, it is often best to think in terms of years rather than months or days. It may take a few rounds of pruning over the course of a few years to re-establish the shape of the tree.
What I have observed in this storm:
The breaks tended to be on trees with leaves and heavier weight on the limbs (most sycamores hadn’t dropped leaves yet and had more breaks, most oaks hadn’t lost leaves and some still had acorns and they didn’t fare well. Most pecans are a hot mess, as well.)
Likewise, the trees that had already dropped their leaves or have a more excurrent structure fared much better. See image below. (Most pines are fine. Bald cypresses took it like a champ, although many lost their tops and will get bushy in the coming years-you may want to consider some thinning in two or three years time).
Most of the breaks are 4 inch diameter limbs and smaller. This is particularly important because the basic structure of the tree is maintained.
What will happen to the trees?
While it is impossible to say with certainty what will happen, here are a few thoughts:
We will begin to see “witch’s brooms” in the next growing season (appropriate for this time of year, n’est pas?). In arboriculture, a witch’s broom is where you have had a cut or break and several limbs sprout from that spot, giving it the look of a broom. How this relates to tree health and tree health is that the sprouts are all sort-of “cries for help” from the tree that is trying to restore its canopy as quickly as possible. Each of these sprouts, however, has a weaker point of attachment than the original branch. Furthermore, after a few years this will put more weight on the original limb than should be there, so you will want to consider pruning to allow only a few of the sprouts to remain. Hopefully with proper care and pruning, the new sprout (or two/three depending on the tree type and branch structure) will take over and become the new replacement branch.
Trees may now behave differently in wind storms. There is now a different structure to the trees, some have large gaps in them that can allow for wind tunnels and more airflow. This is a mixed bag, on one hand, fungal agents may have a more difficult time taking hold, on the other, it leaves the branches that are left far more exposed to the gusts of wind we get in Oklahoma. How the tree responds to this additional stress relies heavily upon variety, health and environmental conditions. Again, consult an arborist about your specific situation.
Trees that have been bent - even if they didn’t break - may now have a compromised vascular system. The vascular system in a tree can only bend and stretch so far before there is damage, but this varies greatly by species. Most pines, for example, could survive a world-class limbo competition and still carry on just fine. Albeit a bit tilted or funny-looking.
Fewer branches = more light for the grass. So there is that.
Below I have linked a few videos from my photos that I think are interesting. I recently taught the Master Gardener class on trees using my backyard as an example, and showed them how an arborist looks at a tree for pruning during a consultation, giving reasons for each cut and making sure you aren’t taking too much in any one growing season. The storm hit my yard particularly hard and it is very interesting to see the difference in less than a three week period side-by-side.
Video of Backyard before the storm from October 13th, 2020:
Follow up video after the storm October 27th, 2020:
So the take-away here is that we will need to pay special attention to our trees in the coming years, and with proper care and pruning most will make a full recovery. :)
Let me know if you have any questions about any of this!
P.S. The goats in the video are perfectly fine. They eventually ate their way out of the shed and we were able to move the goats and chickens to a safe location while we cleaned up and got the electric line sorted. :)