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Are Your Trees Healthy and Safe?


July 15, 2013
Recent storms that have passed through North Georgia and surrounding areas have left a wake of tree-related property damages and even personal tragedies. This has led many people to rightfully conclude that they must ensure that their trees are healthy and non-hazardous. As a property owner, what can you do to preserve the trees you love, while protecting yourself and your home against unhealthy or dangerous trees? Trees should be examined periodically for health and potential hazards. But, how do you know what to look for? The following checklist may assist in the detection of potential hazards in tree growth and development.

Branches Inspect trees for broken and dangling branches, dead branches, branches missing bark or growing fungus (both signaling dead wood), or cracks where branches attach to the trunk.

Actions: Have dead wood removed as soon as possible and at any time of year. Monitor any branches you suspect are dead. Hire a tree professional and/or a certified arborist to remove large or dead branches located high within a tree canopy and to inspect trees with narrow crotch angles.

Trunks Inspect tree trunks for cracks or cavities, oozing or bleeding, cankers creating missing or sunken bark, fungal growth along trunk (which indicates decay), sawdust or insect trails, or multiple upright trunk stems with a tight V-shape at their juncture.

Actions: Any of these symptoms can reduce a tree's stability. The exterior of a tree may appear fine except for a small crack, cavity or fungus, while the interior may be rotted, soft or even empty. Consult a certified arborist to determine tree health if any of these symptoms exists.

Roots Trees have two types of roots. Anchoring roots are large, woody roots that provide support for the tree. When these anchor roots are damaged, the tree can appear healthy with green leaves, but even a gentle wind or the weight of rainwater on leaves can topple the entire tree. Absorbing roots are small roots usually close to the surface that absorb water and nutrients from the soil. When they are damaged, the problem usually shows up aboveground as small or discolored leaves.

Inspect for fungus or mushroom growth on anchoring roots, along the base of the trunk or on soil near the tree (fungal growth indicates decay), cavities and hollows in visible anchoring roots, cracked or raised soil on one side of the tree trunk (could indicate the start of leaning), areas where over half of the roots beneath a tree have been recently cut or crushed, or excessive soil fill or planting beds that are too deep (more than 2 inches) that can smother absorbing roots.

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