Information About Trees

Will my tree blow over in a wind storm?

This is often used as a scare tactic in the sales game that many tree service companies play. I personally don’t care for this. Next comes the question, will my tree fall on my house? In most cases this is like saying to your grandfather, “Grandpa, when you will fall over from a heart-attack?” I have personally seen trees removed that did not need to be and others that several certified arborists said would not fall, fall and destroy valuable personal property.

Many of my customers have gotten conflicting answers from certified arborists that also work for the tree service companies and were left confused or uncertain of which path to take. If you are not comfortable, it is best to get the opinion of an independent consulting arborist if you have any doubt about whether or not the tree is stable and safe.

Are my trees a safety hazard or not?

It is difficult for an untrained eye to recognize when a tree must go. But also keep in mind tree service estimators are rarely independent and usually push to remove because they want the increased revenue. Sometimes all it takes is wind sailing or cleaning out the inner canopy to make a tree much more stable. Other trees may have a lean and can be corrected by balancing.

This is done by taking branches off the heavy side or the side it is leaning to. Many older trees will have dead wood and branches hung up in them. If these fall they can cause property damage, severe injuries and even death. Again if you are uncertain get the opinion of an independent consulting arborist. We suggest you call for a free estimate. Of course, Bob will only give his independent opinion about the condition of the trees he inspects.

Should trees be removed?

This simple question generates contradictory answers among arborists. Trees are removed for a variety of reasons including but not limited to: failing health, poor location, property development, too much maintenance required, improper pruning in the past, pests, threatening assets below, heart rot, root rot, diseases and much more. There are many factors to consider before reaching a decision.

These factors include: species, age, health, current stability, balance, direction of the lean the tree has, position on the property, surrounding vegetation, rooting habit/soil type, density of the stand, and the ability of the tree to sprout. Before we discuss these factors, it is necessary to mention some general considerations that apply to tree removals.

Do Not Remove Trees Without Cause

People tend to remove many more trees than are necessary to make their homes safe or during site preparation.  For an example the value of a healthy, strong tree on a slope or bluff far outweighs its value as lumber or firewood. A tree should be retained unless it is a hazard to life or property, is growing on the proposed house site, drive way or drain field area, is over your roof line or has some other major problem.

For site preparations you may not want to clear a reserve drain field area before it is needed. Explore alternatives to removal thoroughly before deciding to cut. The location of trees and other factors involved should be considered carefully. You may not want to remove trees on slopes until home construction is complete. You may find that the trees do not need to be removed.

Tree Roots.

Trees compensate for shallow rooting by increased spread of root systems. Recent research has indicated that a tree’s root system will extend considerably beyond the drip lines, often as much as two to three times as far. Extensive lateral root systems are common where soil moisture is excessive, soil is shallow, and impervious soil layers impede vertical growth. Where soils are porous, well-drained, deep, and no impervious layer exists, deeper rooting will occur.

Generally, the influence of a tree’s roots on a given site will be related to the tree’s age and size. Larger trees will have more extensive, often deeper and better developed root systems. Dominant trees, those larger and taller than the surrounding ones, have been more subject to wind and usually have developed stronger root systems as a result.

Ability of the Tree to Stump-Sprout

Some trees will continue to re-sprout even though the tree was cut off at the ground. A fallen cotton wood for an example can sprout up entire length of the tree just laying on moist ground, and the root system too. One time Bob removed a fir stump that had continued to callas over under a concrete drive, and it cracked and raised it 3 inches!!! That stump was fed through a near by tree.

The ability of a tree to sprout from a cut stump can be an important characteristic when a property owner is concerned about securing a view without jeopardizing the stability of a slope, or whether or not to remove or grind a stump(s) in their yard. On slopes and hill sides the maintenance of a vigorous, live root system will be important to soil-binding benefits.

Though most tall brush species common to our area will readily sprout when cut, there are relatively few tree species that do so. All of these are broad-leaved deciduous trees. Careful cutting of the species listed offers a means of view clearing without jeopardizing slope stability. The following common trees are capable of sprouting when cut.

Willow: sprouts readily.
Red Alder: often sprouts; leave four to five inches of trunk uncut for more vigorous growth. Older trees sprout less consistently. Repeated cutting increases mortality.
Big Leaf maple: sprouts profusely when cut. Older, larger stems, when cut, can be avenues of infection. Sprouts can grow as much as six feet per year.
Vine Maple: sprouts similarly to Big Leaf Maple. Vine Maples can be trained and pruned into tree form.


Most conifers will not successfully stump-sprout when cut.


Fast growing Cottonwood and popular problems.

Fast-growing Cottonwood and Poplar trees can create problems for homeowners. When they become mature or old they simply start to fall apart, fall/blow over or even break in half from their already weak trunks or main stems. Cottonwood and Poplar tree roots sprout new plants and they can clog septic and sewer lines. Controlling these trees takes diligence and work. If the tree is cut down, the root sprouts will continue to grow rapidly. The Poplar evolved with these characteristics to survive fire and drought. In addition, the Cottonwood tree produces white, cotton-like seeds from the female plant, which fill the air and cover the ground, creating a nuisance.

It is not uncommon for Cottonwood sprouts to develop from the roots, especially after the tree has been cut. Even if the stump is treated with stump killer, the roots often produce sprouts. To solve this problem in most cases we can dig the stumps out with an excavator. If the stump is entangled in underground utilities such as sewer, septic, power, or gas lines the best we can do is stump grinding unless that utility is going to be replaced. When there are surface roots we can use the stump grinder to grind them as well. Or we can take a more extensive route and use a Harley Rake to go over the area or remove the surface soil and roots. Then we can come back and put down a fresh 4-6” of top soil, and re-plant the grass.

You can mow the new sprouts, but that will leave hard sticks at the level of the grass and these sticks may try to begin growing again. You can cut them with a shovel below ground level, and they may still try to grow. Finally, you have the option of applying herbicides. A systemic (trans-locating) broadleaf herbicide will not harm the lawn if used according to directions but will be absorbed into the Cottonwood sprouts and trans-located into the roots, killing more than just the stem. Some of the roots will survive so some sprouting may continue, but this will help stop the sprouts.

In any method, the important consideration is to keep the sprouts from retaining leaves. It takes energy stored in the roots as carbohydrates to produce the new sprouts. The leaves produce food which is returned to its roots making additional growth and sprouting possible. Removal of the leaves soon after they are formed (by using a mower, digging with a shovel, or applying herbicides) prevents the replacement of the carbohydrates in the roots. In time these carbohydrates will be depleted and sprouting will stop.

Examine Poplar and Cottonwood trees regularly. Look for dead branches, cracks, and up-rooting of the stump. Trim the lower branches of the tree every year in the winter to maintain a straight tree form. A cottonwood or Poplar tree can grow between four and eight feet per year and well over 100 feet tall.

Brush and trees to maintain a hill or slopes stability.

Remember that cutting back of brush and trees near the crest of a hill will be required periodically to maintain your view. If you find that brush must be cut more often than once every two to three years you may want to consider planting a lower-growing species to replace the existing brush. Kinnikinnick, an evergreen, forms a dense, low mat and has good erosion control properties. Allow at least three years for its establishment and provide protection from animal damage for the new plantings as required. The offending brush will eventually die if cut back repeatedly after two or three years. Under no circumstances should herbicides be applied to kill unwanted brush. The value of the root system far outweighs the inconvenience of maintenance when slope stability is a concern.

Storms and Trees

Wind, heavy rain, snow and even hail can cause significant damage to residential trees. Understanding the impacts of storms on trees will allow you to develop both preventative measures to decrease the probability of tree damage or property damage and management approaches to care for trees after damage has occurred.

Trees may be uprooted, decapitated or suffer massive crown loss as branches are broken by the force of the wind or by the weight of ice and snow. Loss of large portions of the crown results in tree stress, a reduction of growth and entry sites for insects and disease. Depending on the degree of damage, some trees will recover on their own, others need immediate care to repair the damage incurred and some are so irreversibly damaged that they will eventually die.

Assessing the Damage

The treatment of storm-damaged trees requires prompt action and wise assessment. Factors to consider are whether the tree has damage that is relatively superficial, damage that can be treated or damage that is beyond repair. If more than 35 to 50 percent of the main branches or trunk are severely split or broken, extensive repairs are questionable. Several types of damage occur to trees during storms.

The first and most severe damage occurs when the trunk or main stem of the injured tree splits or is broken. Mature trees that are larger are most susceptible to this type damage. Past tree injuries and pest problems often predispose the tree to storm damage by weakening the wood structure. Trees do not heal wounds. Trees can only grow over old wounds and seal them off.

Wounds are structurally weaker than solid wood. Generally, if a tree has lost more than 50 percent of its crown, the probability of future survival is poor. A second, damage category is blow-over of trees. Often trees that blow over have root failure from a disease (root rot), from shallow soils or those with shallow hard pans, from soil compaction during construction, or from saturated soil from excessive rainfall.

For small to medium-sized, blown-over trees with at least 50 percent of the root system still in the soil, it may be possible to brace them with guy wires or cables. The final and least damaging category is that of broken branches where the break occurs away from the main stem. The higher the break and smaller the diameter of the break point, the higher the probability that the tree will recover.

Broken branches generally do not affect tree survival unless more than 50 percent of the crown is involved. These branches need maintenance quickly so that they do not become a hazard and to decrease the risk of decay organisms entering the wounds.

For moderate trimming jobs close to ground level, homeowners should follow these guidelines.

Smaller branches should be trimmed back to the point where they join larger ones. Make the cut at a slant next to a bud that can produce new growth. Do not leave branch stubs as they encourage rot and decay. Large branches that are broken should be cut back to either the trunk or main limb. Do not cut the branch flush with the trunk. Instead, cut outside the collar at the base of the branch.

Take all necessary safety precautions!

Broken limbs are often under tension and can kick back unexpectedly during cutting. Be alert for down and damaged power and utility lines and broken limbs that are hanging. Call a professional!! If a tree is large and the necessary work is off the ground, call a qualified tree cutting service. A professional tree service company will have the equipment and knowledge to safely remove broken limbs and to correctly repair trees.

Check references, get more than one estimate to ensure that the price offered is competitive with that offered by others for the same service and make sure that your tree service carries proper insurance for property damage, liability and L&I compensation. A company that does not carry proper insurance can bid jobs up to 75% less than their completion.

A damaged limb may strip healthy bark from the trees main stem or trunk. To repair this type of damage, cut any ragged edges of torn bark with a sharp chisel or knife. Take care not to remove any more healthy bark and expose more live tissue than necessary.

If possible, the wound left by the cut should be shaped like an elongated football with the pointed ends of the cut running vertically along the trunk or limb. There is no need to apply tree wound dressings to prevent decay-causing infection. Most research has shown that wound dressings (paint, tar and others) do not prevent decay, may interfere with rapid healing and in some cases can serve as food sources for harmful microorganisms. Do not top trees during the repair process.

Topping accelerates shoot growth and promotes branches that are weakly attached to stubs rather than anchored from within the limb. These branches are more likely to break in future storm events. The tree will also need all its resources to recover from the stress of storm damage. Removal of more branches and leaves reduces photosynthesis, the food-making process in plants, and depletes the trees stored reserves for maintenance and growth.

Why shouldn’t I top my trees?

Leaves wounds that the tree can’t readily close
Ruins the structure of the tree
Disrupts the tree’s energy storage for future growth, which slowly destroys the tree
Stimulates new water sprouts that are weak and can easily break

I have a new home, why are my trees dying?

Backfilling can choke a tree
Root and trunk damage caused by heavy construction equipment
Sudden exposure to the sun (sun scalding)
Sudden change in landscape

Is my tree sick?

Some warning signs include:

Cracks in trunk or major limbs
Hollow or decayed areas
Extensive deadwood
Mushrooms growing from the base of the tree or under its canopy may be a sign of root decay
Wood dust around base of the tree "like from Carpentor Ants"

We do work throughout the winter months and offer hand climbing as well as crane service for those trees that are not easily accessible.   Please keep in mind often times, the price of tree removal can be lower in the slower winter months than in the busy Summer time.