Year-round gardening: Evaluating tree damage; when to remove a tree | Lifestyle

Year-round gardening: Evaluating tree damage; when to remove a tree | Lifestyle

2022 has been a tough year so far for trees. Starting with a January windstorm that upended trees all over town, followed by months of drought and dry winds, trees were stressed. The culminating event was heavy snows and late freezes the third weekend in May. Many trees suffered broken limbs in the storm. It is a wonder trees persist.

When the limbs are cleaned up, consider taking them to Rocky Top Resources for recycling. Get the details at

In nature, damaged trees die slowly and provide habitat and shelter for birds and insects. Since human structures and presence are not threatened, this natural process causes no problems. In our landscapes, we might need to accelerate the process to protect people and structures.

There are multiple factors in the decision process. As a homeowner, observation of the tree might make the decision obvious; if not, you might want to get an arborist involved in the decision process. For all but the smallest trees, an arborist will need to be involved in removal, so a consult makes sense.

Here are some factors to think about:

• Trunk damage is often responsible for tree failure. If more than 25% of the circumference is damaged, long-term survival is unlikely.

• Has the leader (the main upward-trending branch on most trees) been lost? If it has, that might cause the tree to appear deformed.

Not much of a consideration in deciduous species, very important for pine trees.

• If more than 50% of the entire tree is damaged, it is in decline; it might persist for several years and will only become less attractive. It might pose a risk to people and structures if dead limbs fall.

• If the trunk is hollow or rotten. Trees might persist for years in a hollowed-out state, but these trees are significantly weakened and may fall, causing damage and perhaps injury.

If more than one-third of the tree is hollow or rotten, it should probably be removed. Mushrooms or fungal disease on the trunk of the tree is an indication that the tree might be decaying internally.

• Sprouts coming out of the base of the tree indicate the tree is stressed. If these, combined with other factors, indicate decline, you may want to remove the tree.

• Has construction or other activity damaged the root system? If more than 50% of the root system is damaged, removal should be considered.

• If the tree is not a desirable species, removal might be a good idea regardless of other factors. Russian olive trees, Siberian elm trees, cottonwood trees, black locust and willow trees are all trees that are not good choices for urban landscapes. They are weak wood trees prone to damage, and often outcompete native and more desirable trees.