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Within the last year, Alabama has experienced historic tornadoes and storms. Many homes, property, and land were severely damaged. Numerous trees ranging from timber tracts to landscape trees were either blown down or mangled.

For homeowners, it can be heartbreaking to lose a prized tree during a storm. However, trees can also be a liability and mess if they fail and fall. And fall they will, even on a peaceful sunny day, if the trees are structurally weak, damaged, or dying.

Early spring, just about the time the new green leaves are emerging, is a great time to evaluate landscape trees. If and when people do look up, they are surprised to find that a tree on their property is not doing well or has died. By mid spring, every deciduous tree that is healthy should show some type of sign that it is alive by either blooming or putting on new leaves. Trees or branches with no leaves are either declining, dying, or dead.

Assessing a tree for the potential to decline in health and possibly fall is very difficult, even for the trained eye. A hazardous tree is defined as any tree that might fall and cause property damage and/or bodily harm. It should be removed immediately! Signs of a hazardous tree include:

  • dead limbs and/or dieback in the top of the tree
  • decay, including holes and hollow areas
  • visible trunk splits and cracks
  • shedding bark or bark falling off
  • branches lacking leaves when it should not
  • unnatural lean, possibly due to root rot

There are numerous reasons that cause trees to decline or die. However, root damage is the most common cause. Any time the tree's roots, the most sensitive area of the tree, are harmed directly or indirectly, the tree will become stressed. Building construction near the tree, digging within the root zone, even parked vehicles under a tree causes soil compaction and limits the tree ability to take up nutrients and water. Digging, for whatever reason, ultimately always severs trees roots and limits the tree's longevity.

Although the reason why a tree is unhealthy is important, your main concern should be removing the tree. Once a tree begins showing symptoms of decline, it may live several more years or could come tumbling down at any moment. Leaving it is very risky and a liability. Understand that it is not possible to stop or reverse the decline, dieback, and ultimately death. Remove the hazardous tree and plant yourself a new one.

Strong storms always have the potential to knock down the largest and healthiest tree, but it is those weak or damaged ones that are a target and likely come crashing down.

"Evaluating Landscape Trees Seminar" – April 3rd

For more advice and help on determining if your landscape trees are healthy or not, join us Tuesday, April 3rd, at our Evaluating Landscape Trees Seminar. This very informative workshop will be held at the Sportsplex Senior Cabin in Alexander City from 9 a.m. – 12 noon. Featured instructors will be Chuck Browne, Lee County Extension Coordinator; Tom Campbell, ISA Certified Arborist; and Shane Harris, Tallapoosa County Extension Coordinator.   Topics of discussion will be Tree Biology and Physiology, Evaluating the Health of Trees, Common Tree Diseases, Disorders & Problems, and What to Do Next – When to Remove Hazardous Trees. This workshop is designed to give you the tools and confidence to inspect and evaluate your landscape trees, before and after the storm. Cost is only $5.

For a registration form or for more information, visit www.aces.edu/Tallapoosa or contact the Tallapoosa County Extension office at 256-825-1050.

Shane Harris is the County Extension Coordinator for Tallapoosa County.


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