After the Storm: Are Your Trees Too Damaged to Save?
Even the strongest and most resilient trees can become victims of a bad storm, leaving branches broken and sticks scattered all over your lawn. The morning after the storm may find your trees looking more dreadful than ever, and your first thought might be that your trees simply won’t survive the beating they’ve taken.
However, some trees can be saved, even after suffering extensive damage. Don’t start planning tree removal when some remedial trimming could save priceless trees. Whether or not the trees can be saved depends on several factors. Here are some factors that affect whether or not your tree needs a doctor or a funeral.
The Quality and Health of Your Tree
The first thing to consider is whether or not the tree was healthy to begin with. Many trees can become diseased or plagued with insects before a storm hits. In fact, the trees that suffer most during a storm are those that already have weaknesses from previous injuries, infections, or pests.
A tree needs to be in vibrantly good health to recover from severe damage like the loss of major limbs or large wounds in the central leader. If your tree showed signs of illness, like reduced fruit production, discolored leaves, and patches of dead vegetation, the best solution is usually removal, simply because your tree will need a lot of energy to recover from storm damage.
The Type and Extent of the Damage
The next thing to assess is just how badly your tree is hurt. Some storm damage can look much worse than it actually is, letting you think your tree is finished when really most of the problems are cosmetic issues that can be fixed with time and skilled pruning.
Some damages, however, are as bad as they look. Your tree will have trouble recovering from injuries like these.
A Broken Central Leader
Perhaps the most dangerous injury to a tree is damage to the central leader. The leader of a tree is what directs the growth of all the other branches and provides the main highway for nutrient distribution. In a storm, the tree can break through the central leader.
This type of damage opens the tree up to infection that can easily reach all the branches, helping the disease or pest to spread quickly. Also, with the central leader damaged, the tree becomes structurally unsound.
Proper tree pruning practices focus around the need for a strong central leader. When the leader is compromised, you can consider your tree decapitated.
The Loss of More Than Half of Crown Vegetation
Even if most of the branches seem to be in okay shape, the loss of leaves is a major blow to the recovery process of your tree. Trees use their leaves to produce food through photosynthesis, and when there is a lot of damage to a tree, the demand for food increases.
If the crown vegetation cannot meet the demands of the tree during recovery, the tree will not recover. Therefore, any tree that loses over half of its living leaves and small branches during a bad storm has a very slim chance of survival. Tree removal is usually the safest option.
Severe Bark Loss
Trees are usually resilient. They can heal small wounds to the bark and branches, creating scars over exposed wood. However, there is only so much a tree can do to recover areas that have been stripped of bark.
If a branch broke off the tree during a storm and with pulled off a large section of bark from the trunk, exposing several feet of bare wood, it’s only a matter of time until the tree becomes infected with disease of infested by insects like termites, ants, or carpenter bees.
Bark loss also causes a tree to lose the vital phloem layer that directs food down to the roots. Without food, the roots begin to die. The rest of the tree follows soon after, as roots provide vital water and nutrients.
In some cases, a tree service can provide a protective wrap to keep infection away until the tree has time to heal. But in some cases, when the bark loss is substantial, the tree will never regain the protection the bark used to provide.
Cracks or Splits from Main Branches to the Trunk
Mature trees have several large lateral branches that spring off or develop directly from the main leader. These branches are almost as crucial to the health of the tree as the leader itself when it comes to storm damage.
Should one of these branches break during a storm, the weight of the branch can actually send a split down the body of the tree. Splits through heartwood can almost never be repaired. The tree will slowly die if the loss of a major branch causes a split through to the trunk.
The Age and Size of Your Tree
Age and size play a part in how well your tree will recover from bad storm damage. Younger, smaller trees with fewer heavy branches are better able to repair wounds like bark loss. The tree is young enough that the loss of a main branch does not cause structural problems. With the right pruning, the tree can be encouraged to grow in a different way.
For more information about saving your trees after a storm, contact us at Pete & Ron’s Tree Service, Inc.