Tag: arborist

Vines Growing on Trees – Good or Bad?

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Trumpet Vine

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English ivy and other evergreen vines can cause problems in trees, along with fast growing deciduous (lose their leaves in winter) vines like Kudzu. However, not all vines do harm to trees.

Problem Vines:

  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata )
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
  • Chinese/Japanese wisteria (Wisteria spp.)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria spp.)
  • Euonymus  (spp.)

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These are just a few of the bad vines to allow to grow on trees. Evergreen and fast growing vines should be avoided or removed if possible. All vines can cause structural problems – The added weight can break branches along with the vine catching more wind, snow or ice than the tree is used to receiving, possibly causing it to topple. Some vines that start as a groundcover (such as ivy), form a dense mat covering the tree’s buttress or root flare. The vine often causes leaves and debris to pile up against the root collar and traps moisture against the trunk and root flare. This can cause many fungal and bacterial type diseases, as well as potential structural decay at the base of the tree. Deciduous vines aren’t necessarily any better than their evergreen counterparts. They, too have the capability of shading out the tree’s leaves, adding weight and even girdling (strangling) the tree’s limbs and trunk. Some common vines in this category; Chinese/Japanese wisteria, trumpet vine and pipevine. Trumpet vine and pipevine are native to the Midwest and usually confine their growth to trees at the edge of woods or those that are standing alone. Therefore, they don’t represent a threat to the forest overall, but they can take their toll on individual trees. It comes to personal preference if you want to go down this road.

Leave Them Be Vines:

Vines that are smaller and grow more slowly that can usually be allowed to grow on trees.

  • Clematis species
  • Virgin’s bower (native clematis – Clematis virginiana)
  • Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)
  • Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quincifolia)
  • Carolina moonseed (Cocculus carolinus)
  • Maypop / Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Although Virginia creeper and crossvine can grow quickly and get large, I’ve never seen any tree so overgrown with them as to pose a problem even though crossvine can be evergreen. The clematis vines (including the native), Carolina moonseed and maypop climb by twining, however do not strangle the tree. Crossvine, Virginia creeper and poison ivy climb by using their aerial roots. People often confuse Virginia creeper and poison ivy. Just remember this little ditty:

“Leaves of three, leave it be. Leaves of five, leave it alive (or let it thrive).”

And before anyone jumps down my throat about the poison ivy, I would like to remind everyone that the Audubon Society considers poison ivy to be one of the top food sources for song birds, with about 63 species feeding on the berries. It’s so important, that nature has essential plant foods for birds. However, I digress. … Should you decide to let a smaller, slower-growing vine grow up a living tree, be prepared to manage the vine by cutting it back to keep it confined to the trunk and not allow it to grow on the limbs which could add weight and change the tree’s center of gravity as well as shade the tree’s leaves. Make sure that fallen leaves and other plant debris don’t collect at the bottom of the vine against the host tree or diseases may follow. Should a tree that is hosting a vine show signs of stress, the vine will have to go for the health of the tree. One last thought. Dead trees that are left standing (snags) can be used for vines. Just remember that this arrangement will be temporary, as the snag will eventually decay to the point of falling. Just make sure it won’t hit anything when it comes down.

© The Naturarian

Hey Neighbor, We Need to Talk….

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If my neighbor’s tree branches hang into my yard, can I trim them?

Yes. By law, you have the right to trim branches and limbs that extend past your property line, nothing further into the neighbor’s yard. You may not go onto the neighbor’s property or destroy the tree. If you do harm to the tree, you could be found liable for up to three times the value of the tree. Most trees have a replacement value of between $500 and $3,500. Some are considered ornamental or landmark trees and can have an astonishing values of between $20,000 and $60,000. Be sure to use extreme caution when tree trimming!

If my neighbor owns a fruit tree and the branches hang over my property, can I eat the fruit?

No. The fruit of the tree belongs to the owner of the tree, so don’t pick any unless you’ve asked! Courts are divided on who can have fallen fruit, however. Be sure to check your local laws to see if you can eat any fruit that falls from the tree.

If my neighbor’s leaves keep blowing into my yard, could I file a nuisance claim?

No. Leaves are considered a natural product. Even if the leaves cause damage, like clogging your gutters or pipes, you have no legal claims against the owner of the tree.

However, if the tree branches that are shedding the leaves are hanging over your yard, or the tree trunk is encroaching on your property, then you have a right to trim those branches up to your property line.

You could also consider building a fence. Fencing that is built on your side of the property line may help those leaves from blowing over into your yard. Ever heard the saying, “Fences make better neighbors”?

Most of a large tree hangs over my yard, but the trunk is in the neighbor’s yard. Who’s tree is it?

The neighbor owns the tree. So long as the tree trunk is wholly in the neighbor’s yard, it belongs to the neighbor.

When the tree trunk is divided by the property lines of two or more people, it is referred to as a “boundary tree”. In the case of a “boundary tree”, all of the property owners own the tree and share responsibility for it. Tree removal without the consent of all the property owners is unlawful.

My neighbor dug up his yard, and in the process killed a tree that’s just on my side of the property line. Am I entitled to compensation for the tree?

Yes. In this situation, the tree owner has the right to sue for damages. Anyone who engages in tree removal, tree cutting, or injury to the tree without the owner’s permission is liable for compensating the tree owner. In many cases, the tree-owner has been compensated by up to three times the value of the tree. If you will be excavating near any trees, be sure to consult an arborist.

A storm knocked down my neighbor’s tree limb onto my property, damaging my house, car, and yard furniture. Is he responsible for the damages?

It depends. The court will probably apply a reasonable care standard. If your neighbor took reasonable care to maintain the tree branch and the tree branch did not seem to a reasonable person to be threatening to fall, then probably not. If a reasonable person could not have avoided this from happening in any way, then it will be deemed an Act of God, and the neighbor will not be liable.

If, after applying this reasonable care standard, however, the court finds that a reasonable person would have or should have known that the tree branch posed a danger of falling, or that the neighbor never did reasonable inspections to maintain the tree branch, then the neighbor could be found liable of negligence, and therefore responsible for damages to your property.

My neighbor’s tree looks like it’s going to fall on my house. What should I do?

Landowners are responsible for maintaining the trees on their property. Legally, they have two duties: make reasonable inspections and take care to ensure the tree is safe. Therefore, if a reasonable inspection shows that the tree could be dangerous, your neighbor is responsible for the tree removal. If your neighbor does not remove the dangerous tree, and the tree does in fact cause damage, your neighbor can be held liable.

If you have spoken to your neighbor about the tree issue, and he has not done anything about it you do have laws that protect you. The tree may constitute a nuisance, by interfering with your use and enjoyment of your own property. You could file a nuisance claim, and if the court finds that the true is a nuisance, the court may order the tree removed. Having a professional arborist write a letter describing the condition of the tree will help.

Hopefully, you will not have to go that far. Most cities have ordinances prohibiting property owners from keeping dangerous conditions on their property. If you call your municipality, they may remove the tree themselves or order your neighbor to do it.

Utility companies may also have an interest in the tree’s removal if the tree’s condition threatens any of its equipment. A simple call to a utility company may prompt them to remove the tree themselves.

The spreading of tree roots on my land damaged my neighbor’s septic tank. Do I have to compensate my neighbors?

It depends. You will need to check with your specific state laws, as each state is different. In most states, the bothered neighbor can engage in the tree trimming or root cutting herself, and does not have a claim against the tree owner. Other states provide that neighbors may sue if the following conditions are met:

  • Serious harm caused by encroaching tree limbs or tree roots may give rise to a lawsuit. Serious harm usually requires structural damage, such as damaged roofs or walls, crushed pipes, cracked foundations and cracked or clogged sewers.
  • If an encroaching tree was planted, not wild, the neighbor may sue.
  • A neighbor may only sue if the tree is noxious. “Noxious” means that the tree must be inherently dangerous or poisonous, AND the tree must cause actual damage.

Still other states are not as straightforward, but lawsuits have been successful when the tree does cause substantial damage or interferes with the neighbor’s use and enjoyment of her property (constituting a nuisance claim).

The bottom line is that you need to check your own state’s laws regarding who’s responsible for tree related damage. However, why wait? If you see a tree on your property or a neighbors, hire a professional arborist to check it out. She will bring you piece of mind and may even avert a hefty claim on your homeowners insurance!

Personal Story:
I was reminded of a story regarding this tree… If you look at the left side of the tree, about a third of the way up, you’ll see a large stump. This limb had snapped, was touching the ground, but not completely severed from the tree. In forestry, these are called ‘widow makers’. There is a similar term in heart attacks when a specific area of the heart is effected, as the result is the same. A widow is made.
I saw the snapped limb the next morning after a storm. I had actually heard the crack the night before, although couldn’t see it. Later on that day, I heard a chainsaw fire-up and went out to investigate. My neighbor had his ladder against the tree and his wife was at the end of a rope that was attached to the limb to pull it out of the way when it detached (silly human – Woman=160# and Limb=1500#). I started to run for the fence… It was too late. Before I could either film the possible death of my neighbor or yell for him to stop. The limb gave way.
I’m no physics major, nor slept in a Holiday Inn the night before, so in layman’s terms, the tree was pulled back like a slingshot when the limb fell, and when the limb was cut free, it ‘sprang’! His ladder was propelled backwards with him on it. His chainsaw fell, since he chose to hang onto the ladder instead. Luckily, the wife was clear. Although he was able to lean and send the ladder back forward towards the tree, the location he had rested the ladder originally had shifted and he fell forward, while the ladder feet slid out with the top rung of the ladder scraping down the trunk of the tree. A helluva ride down!!
This all happened in 5 seconds.
This man has already had a heart attack 4 years ago.
Hopefully, the only bad outcome to this was he had to change his pants…


© The Naturarian

Successful Gardening Requires Good Organization

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The 3-Ring bible of my yard.

Staying organized is an important part of successful gardening. Utilizing the off-season to organize affords more time during the growing season to dedicate to the plants. It also helps me pass the long, dark months of winter!

Start by creating something to accumulate records in such as a 3-ring binder, calendar or file box. Training oneself during the growing season to take quick notes, photos and to keep the information together (I have a basket I throw it all in).

Information that should be recorded:

  • Planting dates with the receipt – some nurseries offer a 1-year warranty
  • After replacing store tags with longer lasting ones, write the install date on it
  • Photos should be downloaded, printed and identified
  • Vegetable plot layouts – as crop rotation is essential
  • Names and locations of seeds collected
  • Ornamental layouts to help with identification
  • Annuals that have worked in the past and flat quantities
  • Insect and disease problems, along with remedies used in the past
  • Plants to thin and share with others
  • Note of fertilization times – not just a date, but the surrounding conditions and weather as well
  • Overwintered bulb names can be directly written on with water soluble pen
  • Pest spray times [although not calendar specific] for reminders

Labeling plants within the garden helps develop identification skills & saves memory cells 😉 Labels can be ready-made ceramic, bamboo, metal, actual seed packets or cut up plastic recyclables into strips. Labels should always be placed similarly such as always at the north side of the plant to easily find them later. When attaching a tag to a plant using a wire or string, don’t strangle the branch, apply loosely to allow for growth.

Another great way to keep organized is to start a garden blog! Take photos of each area of your garden on a scheduled basis. If you’re really ambitious, take photos of each plant. Even if you don’t know the name of the plant, by publishing the photo, someone may comment the name. WordPress is a great (free) platform to use for this. (WP did not pay me to write that!)

Lastly, if you are in Northeastern Illinois or Southern Wisconsin, you can take advantage of a coaching session with me that can produce a list of your plants, along with gardening tasks and when to perform them. Please click the following for a sample report ~~> Advanced Coach Notes

© The Naturarian

Why Tree Surveys and Inventories are Important

Tree surveyTrees are an essential part of the human world as they provide us food and shelter, clean our environment and calm our restless spirits. Many municipalities have not embraced the benefits of trees into their economic sphere, which hurts cities from receiving grant monies and federal or state funds, which would better the community.

Tree inventories are one way of keeping track of the benefits trees give back to the earth, along with records to aid in the maintenance, upkeep and diversity of the monitored forest. Urban forest inventories provide a unique advantage to foresters, as many of the trees are within an area where many people live. Information is easier to obtain when more people are involved. Armed with information such as; reduction of air pollution, carbon storage, energy savings, functionality, and monitory worth, urban foresters could influence unaware politicians to the monitory worth of trees. When trees (or anything) become worth money, more people pay attention to them.

People do care about trees in one way or another, some care for their beauty and values; others are only concerned if they will fall on their home. The information gathered during an inventory could make homeowners’ properties more valuable and species data could warn homeowners of potential failure due to a pest or disease. Whatever the reason, it would be to a municipalities benefit to conduct tree inventories to satisfy both sides and to improve the urban forest.

Although there are many ways to conduct an inventory (partial, complete or sample), within a municipal forest, a complete inventory should be a goal. To achieve the goal of a full inventory, a city must try to involve the people living within the community in conducting it. Nonprofessionals can also utilize the inventory tools currently used by professional, urban foresters.

Handheld GIS (Geographic Information Systems), smartphones and android apps have made tree identification, location and inventory easier for all involved; and all are inexpensive. Combining these tools with community outreach programs to inform the public about the benefits of trees can gain funds useful to all the citizens in the area.

In the past, many citizens have voted for tax monies to be invested into forest preserves, reforestation of local parks and right of ways. Another possible process to produce a complete inventory (though it is a slow one) would be to add a tree survey requirement along with the land survey done when a property is selling. Opposed to enacting a tax, funding could possibly be raised from grants to offset the cost.

© The Naturarian