Arborist advice: take time on decisions about damaged trees

As you start to assess damage to trees from the latest winter storm, we have some tips on pruning and replacing trees that have been damaged.

As you start to dig out from the latest winter storm, you may notice some damage to trees in your yard.

The Missouri Department of Conservation says the wet, heavy snow put extra weight on tree limbs and damaged some trees.

But, the department advises, if not immediate hazards exist, you might want to take some time figuring out what to do next. Some trees can be pruned while others may need to be replaced.

Here are some tips for what to do from an urban forester.

Broken limbs or tree tops that cannot be reached from the ground should probably be removed by tree-care professionals, such as certified arborists, Chuck Conner, an urban forester for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), said.

Tree trimming can be hazardous. “Pruning large trees is a task for those who are trained and know what they’re doing,” he said.

Even damage that is easily reachable by property owners should be removed with care.

If a broken branch is not going to fall on a driveway or a house, there’s no hurry,” Conner said. “Wait until the snow is off.  The long-term loss of tree shade and symmetry due to storms damage depends on the size, species and remaining healthy growth.

Trees are capable of rapidly growing new branches that fill in foliage gaps.  “If it’s just a branch broken here and there, in a few years you won’t even notice the damage,” Conner said.  But usually if half or more of a tree is lost to storms, the tree needs to be replaced.

“If more than 50 percent of a tree is on the ground, it won’t come back,” he said, “especially when trees are under so much drought stress.”

Property owners are advised to use trained and certified arborists when hiring someone to prune trees or remove storm-damaged trees. Get more than one estimate for the job, Conner said. Ask for proof of certification and membership in professional arborists organizations, and ask for references.

Good arborists don’t “top” trees, which is slang for trimming all the smaller limbs out of the top a tree.

For trees not damaged, regular professional pruning of valuable yard trees can spare a property owner damage in future storms.  A high percentage of storm damage occurs because trees are not properly pruned as they grow through the decades, Conner said.


Information on post-storm tree care

More information about trees


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