A car struck and destroyed my tree. How can a damage estimate be obtained?

As with most material goods, trees and landscape plants have a fiscal value. A plant appraisal can be performed by a qualified professional with extensive knowledge of plants as well as good common sense. The simplest appraisal would be a replacement cost value. This would entail the cost of removal of the damaged tree plus the cost of a replacement tree. This is usually limited to around a 4 inch caliper tree. It is highly impractical to replace large diameter trees due to the large size and weight of these trees.

The second appraisal method would be the ISA trunk formula method. This method relies heavily with the appraiser’s expertise and integrity. Large caliper trees can be appraised using this court approved method. Another appraisal can be the difference in real estate values due to the loss of a tree, or landscaping. A real estate appraiser would have to be brought in as part of the appraisal team.

Finally a cost of cure method would appraise the damage by determining how much it would cost to restore the damage to an acceptable appearance. As you can see, appraisal can be a complicated process, often with more than one appraiser to reach a fair settlement.

I am planning to buy a home in a heavily wooded lot. How can I tell if the trees are safe and healthy?

There are a few basics to look for when evaluating tree health. First check for dead trees, these can fall and damage property. Next look for large dead branches in trees; this can be a sign of stress or decline in tree health. Beyond these two basic conditions tree health should be evaluated by a professional. A Certified Arborist has training in detection of tree defects. Some trees appear perfectly healthy but could be full of decay. This decay could be hard to detect especially in roots. Decay is the number one defect causing tree failure. A tree risk evaluation can be done for any or all of your trees in question. Expect to pay a fee for this service. Trees greatly increase real estate values and buying property with mature trees will be worth the investment as long as the trees are in good condition.

Why do people mulch planting beds?

There are several advantages to mulching. Besides the obvious aesthetic benefit, organic mulches help to simulate forest floor conditions for trees. Trees evolved with a deep litter layer of leaves and decaying wood, so planting a tree in a lawn area surrounded by turf is bound to cause problems. A ring of mulch around a tree eliminates the competition for water and nutrients between the tree and the turf. Organic mulches also help build soil fertility and structure. The main problem with mulch it is over applied. Two to three inches are the maximum amount to use. Deep piles of mulch restrict oxygen to roots and actually restrict water penetration to the root zone. This practice also can provide many stem and root rot organisms with an ideal environment to become established. In summary, mulching is one of the most beneficial treatments for trees and shrubs as long as it is done properly.

What is done with trees that are removed in an urban setting?

All of the trees our company removes are recycled in one form or another. The tree’s crown is chipped and stored a few months. These chips are then processed into mulch. Some of the larger wood is also processed for mulch. These include very large diameter logs, decayed wood and other logs not easily used for other products. The mulch is ground and stored for at least 6 months and reground for a final mulch product. This composting process kills all insect and disease organisms, and makes for a nice dark brown color. Other wood is used as firewood. Our buildings are heated with an outdoor wood furnace. Finally some wood is sawed into lumber. The lumber can be used for building material, furniture and cabinets, and crafts. Some interesting species are found in urban areas. Some of these non natives are unique for certain wood working projects. As you can see everything is utilized saving landfill space and helping sustain our natural forests.

I notice your credential is a board Certified master Arborist. What is the difference between this and a Certified Arborist?

In 1993 the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) began an international program to certify individuals performing tree care practices. This certification program was meant to elevate the profession by demonstrating that these certified individuals, were in fact, qualified to perform these practices. The certification process proved that these arborists possessed a minimum competency to perform proper and scientifically correct tree care. This process involves passing a rigorous written exam, and accumulating 30 approved continuing education credits (CUEs) in three years. At the end of 3 years a recertification fee is collected as long as the CEU process is met, and there are no complaints of improper tree care or business ethics against you. In 2004 due to increased demand for a higher credential the Board Certified Master Arborist (BCMA) program was put in place. It called for a more rigorous exam, highly science based and several other requirements before the exam could be taken. A candidate needs at least 3 years as a Certified Arborist, formal education,(or several years of field experience), publishing of articles or research papers, speaking at educational seminars or conferences related to Arboriculture or Urban Forestry. A BCMA also needs 60 CUE credits with 20 each in science, management, and practice. I was one of the first 10 who tested for BCMA and passed the exam in 2004. To date there are about 300 BCMAs worldwide, and 26,000 Certified Arborists.

What causes trees to fail in high velocity winds?

There are several reasons trees fall or shed parts in severe weather. Decay within the trunk and branches is one defect that can cause failure due to a lack of supporting wood. Hollow trees can remain intact, but need a good solid outer wall of wood for support. Cracks in wood are also a main reason for failure. If wood is cracked through on both sides of the tree strength is severely compromised. Cracks are easy to detect and sometimes can be corrected by proper cabling or bracing techniques. Root problems are another cause of wind throw. This problem is even more complicated because roots are under the ground and not visible. Roots could have been cut for a sidewalk or sewer, removing the anchor roots for the tree. Roots also can decay and lose strength. Often times the tree seems to be healthy and shows no outward sign of health problems. Occasionally soil volume is too small or too saturated to support the tree and entire root systems will uproot. Winds in excess of 50-60 MPH will topple even healthy trees, making prevention virtually impossible. Have trees checked periodically by professionals especially after storm events. A consulting fee is a small price to pay to prevent tree failures.

What is the current status of Emerald Ash Borer in PA?

Emerald Ash Borer(EAB) has been confirmed in 4 more counties the closest being Union, and Centre. The Union County site is very close to the Lycoming County border, in Gregg Township. Due to this new discovery the western 2/3 of the state is in a quarantine area. No ash wood products, or any hardwood firewood can be moved out of the quarantine area. This is a serious threat to all Ash species. The mortality rate of unprotected trees infested with pest is over 99%. Non infested trees can be chemically treated to protect them from EAB. The method of treatment is done by trunk injections or soil drenches of pesticides labeled for control of EAB. If you have specimen Ash trees you want to protect, start treatment now. The success rate drops significantly if the tree is infested. If you suspect an infestation of EAB, have the trees checked by a professional arborist or forester.

Will the current hot dry conditions harm trees?

Since trees are living organisms they need water to live and grow. Trees cannot move to areas of water during droughts, so they must adapt. Like most plants an inch of rainfall per week is optimum for growth. Water stressed trees will show various symptoms such as yellowing, leaf browning and even defoliation. Newly planted trees especially need water as they are re-growing the root system lost to transplanting. These plants are relatively easy to water due to their small size. Drip irrigation systems work best as water is slowly soaked into the soil. Mature trees present a challenge for watering due to the large amount of water needed. This could be several hundred gallons per week. When selecting plantings for dry sites use drought tolerant species. These include White Oaks, Hickory, Honeylocust, and hybrid Elms. Remember however that all newly planted species need water whether drought tolerant or not.

I have noticed damaged leaves on many trees after recent frost and cold temperatures, are the trees OK?

The answer could be yes, or no. Older established trees will often recover just fine. Newly planted trees could have problems. These trees are already stressed from transplanting, which results in a loss of roots. It takes a few years for these trees to re-grow roots to the same density as before digging. These plants are definitely going to need more care to recover. Watering these trees more often when dry will help new leaves to develop. Keeping these plants insect and disease free will also add to the effort. There is also a chance very old and stressed or diseased trees will not recover. The defoliation caused by frost will further the state of decline in these trees. Since trees are too big to cover during frost periods, there is hardly any prevention other than proper watering before and after frosts. Most of the damage recovery is a wait and see for a few months after.

Why do fruit trees need pruning?

There are several reasons growers prune fruiting trees. Most fruit is formed on horizontal branches. By pruning the upright branches fruit spur development is enhanced on the lateral branches. Trees generally are alternate bearing, producing bumper crops one year and a smaller crop the next. Pruning reduces the amount of flower buds helping to spread the fruit production more evenly every year. This technique also leaves fewer buds which produce larger high quality fruit. Thinning the tree crown allows better light and air penetration making fruit ripen more evenly, and controlling disease organisms that thrive in damp conditions. Fruit tree pruning should be done in mid to late winter. This timing prevents spread of disease and allows good visibility of branch structure to make proper cuts. Fruit trees in an ornamental setting do not need to be severely pruned as in orchards. These trees can be selectively thinned to keep the trees form and still allow light to filter through. Fruit tree flowers make a fine spring show and are beneficial to honeybees. These trees also can provide good fruit to eat or preserve.