Tag: tree

A Broken Tree ~ Why Arborist’s Cry

damaged treeAlthough this story doesn’t have a happy ending, it must be told to prevent future devastation.

We were camping at one of our local campgrounds last October and this tree was on our site. I normally love to put supporting links to campgrounds in my blog, however I’m going to be anonymous on this one. For us, this campground is close (under an hour drive) and is on a river we like to kayak on. Sadly though, they don’t care for their campground whatsoever. Almost every tree in the campground is injured in one way or another. Many are ready to fall on campers with a good gust of wind! I cringe when I see these situations, as what am I to do? Tell the family of 6 to move their camper now, before you lose a few of your chitlins from a downed tree? I’d get a “Pffft, we’re fine, you crazy, tree lady!” Yeah, don’t mind the lady with the ‘Risk Assessment Arborist’ badge on her lapel. =-P

I’ve pondered highly about saying something to the owners of such campgrounds. I would think that they would love the free information from a licensed arborist! Of course, I can give constructive criticism without being accusatory. No one wants to be told they don’t know what they’re doing  😉 However, I’ve done this once with nasty repercussions.

I was at a campground that had poison ivy everywhere in spades! Some hung into the paths that people walk on. I mentioned this to the owner, who told me, “What am I supposed to do about it?” I said that there are landscapers that care for these types of situations and his reply was that he didn’t have the money to do it and people will just have to avoid it. I told him he could put up a sign that identifies the area and show folks what poison ivy looks like. He said he didn’t want people to be afraid to camp there and campers should know what PI looks like! This campground was charging $72 a night, without sewer. This is an outrageous fee, for you non-campers. Normal rates are about $30-$40, with sewer, at a private campground.

Sometimes, there’s really no risk involved in the landscape. Many times it’s just a plant health problem or an aesthetic thang.

Take a look at the photos of this tree… From a layman’s perspective, it may not look like there are any issues at all. However, upon further inspection, do you notice how large the trunk is compared to the canopy of the tree? A few years ago, the whole top of this tree broke off. Then the tree sent out a bunch of shoots from the broken trunk to compensate for the loss of its food-making leaves. These branches are not attached to the tree very well and can break with little effort. As you can see, many of the branches are dying already.

The last photo is of the root-crown and how it was planted. This tree had little chance from day one of ever surviving. It was buried too deep and has multiple girdling roots, which are roots that circle the trunk and only get tighter as the tree grows, cutting off its circulation, in layman’s terms.

Can this tree be saved? No. Its structure has been so compromised, there’s really no way to prune it back to a healthy shape.

Just like Prince sang, “This is what is sounds like…. when Arborists cry.”  😉 Or some thing like that!!


© The Naturarian

Beware of the Mulch Volcano ~ No Tree is Safe!!

mulch volcano There are many rumors out there that somehow become common knowledge that are very detrimental to whatever the cause is.

Mulching trees is one of them. I am so saddened when I see trees mulched up to their lower branches, called ‘Mulch Volcanoes’. If the truck of your tree looks the same as a telephone pole, there’s too much mulch on it!!! The tree should flare out where it comes out of the ground.tree fell due to too much mulch on trunk

Sadly, homeowners see this and think this is the correct way to go and the vicious cycle continues. Professional landscapers do it all the time just to fill their pockets, telling you it’s horticulturally correct. Don’t fall for it! You DO NOT need to add mulch to your beds yearly. It is a good idea to cultivate what is still there, though. My advice is to apply biannually or where it may have eroded.

There are many problems that a mulch volcano can cause. Girdling roots, poor growth, mold to name a few.. However, crown rot rates as a number one worst issue. One stiff breeze is all it will take. Notice in the photo to the right, the trunk snapped off right at the mulch-line. These types of happenings can cause some costly repairs. Mulch volcanoes are sneaky. This tree looked completely healthy. Sometimes a tree with a lot of gumption will grow large, however the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Here are my PeeGee Hydrangea trees, PROPERLY mulched, which looked to have survived my fall planting. You can clearly see the root flair at the top of the mulch line. I really only put enough over the rootball to make it the same color/blend well with the mulch doughnut.

tree properly mulched

correct way to mulch

Below is a reality check. Look how high that mulch was! 😯

© The Naturarian

Identifying Diplodia Tip Blight in Pines

Diplodia tip blight is a disease of pines in the Midwest area and the treatment window will soon be upon us. This disease is caused by the fungus Sphaeropsis sapinea and highly effects two-needled pines such as Austrian, scotch, mugo and red, but can infect all evergreens. Here, our Austrian Pines are the most affected and are no longer planted here.

pine with blight on needles

The disease will eventually kill the tree, but can take a long time, without treatment (5 years-ish). Although treatments can slow the process, careful thought is needed in a budgetary sense. The tree will begin to have die-back (larger branch death) and will require regular pruning to be aesthetically pleasing… if that’s even possible. Treatments can be costly, worse-case ineffective, if not applied correctly. The cost of removal will go up as the tree gets larger or becomes more hazardous to fell. In the end, depending where the tree is located, along with the ‘value’ placed on the tree, it may be more cost-effective to remove the tree and replace it as soon as diagnosed.

blight on pine needle

The Diplodia fungus overwinters on infected needles, cones, and within the bark of twigs. Spores are released from spring through late fall. New shoots are infected during the spring from bud break to the end of the growing season. The cones are infected during the spring of the second season, as it takes two years for cones to mature.

Spread of the disease is by the splashing of water, be it rain or over-head irrigation. Because this disease tends to overwinter and spread from infected cones, symptoms are first noticeable on the lower branches, as old cones collect under the tree. Symptoms of infected trees become visible in summer through fall and resemble stunted needle growth and yellowing. Spores can be seen on the needles & old cones as black dots. Because cones are more susceptible to infection, younger, non-cone bearing trees are often symptom-free.

Managing Diplodia tip blight focuses on tree health and sanitation. Providing proper care such as no overhead (and proper) watering, mulching, pest management and fertilization, helps suppress the disease. Removal of diseased cones from the ground helps, but is not practical in large stands of pines. Pruning of infected tips will aesthetically improve the tree, but will do little in the stop of the disease.

Severely infected trees should be removed. A fungicide spray program needs to be implemented in the spring and includes at least three applications. Make the first application just prior to bud break* (which will be soon) and make two additional applications at 10-day intervals. It is important to get the first application on the trees before any bud sheaths have broken (the papery tan cover). If the tree you’re trying to save is of high value, consult a licensed ISA arborist, as the chemicals available to professionals are usually more effective.

* Indicator plants to watch for blooming that coincide with bud break:

  • Spiraea x vanhouttei – Vanhoutti Spirea
  • Cercis canadensis – Eastern Redbud
  • Chaenomeles speciosa – Quince
  • Syringa vulgaris – Common Lilac

© The Naturarian

How to Attract Butterflies With Host Trees!

I’ve seen and read many lists of flowers to plant to attract pollinators, including butterflies to the garden. How a flower is shaped and when it blooms are key to luring these beauties in. Although I feel it’s a great start to attracting a diversity of insects to the garden, most of these lists only address the feeding aspects of an adult butterfly.

Another detail I notice is most lists only include annuals and perennials, which are herbaceous (soft stemmed). Many great trees and shrubs are lacking representation in these blooming lists. Not only that, butterflies need ‘host plants’ for their larvae. A host plant is just what it sounds like, a plant that an insect (butterfly) can lay their eggs on and when the larvae hatch, can be fed upon. Usually, we’re not talking about much damage to the tree. Nothing the tree can’t handle.

Because I speak for the Lorax, and he speaks for the trees… I’ve compiled a list of TREES that many butterfly parents choose to raise their young on. So, don’t just think of the adult butterfly and the flowers, think about a great investment tree, that can serve as a butterfly nursery!

If you’d like a quote for a tree install, please contact me 🙂

The following is a list of larval host tree & shrubs and the butterfly species that are attracted to them.

Printable List – .pdf format

Amelanchier spp. – Serviceberry

  • Bruce Spanworm
  • Blindy Sphinx (small)
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Amorpha canescens
  • Black-spotted Prominent
  • Dog Face
  • Asimina triloba
  • Zebra Swallowtail

Betula spp. – Birch

  • Compton Tortoiseshell
  • Dreump Duskywing
  • Mourning Cloak
  • Tiger Swallowtail
  • White-marked Tussock Moth

Carya spp. – Hickory

  • Hickory Hairstreak
  • Hickory Horn D.
  • Luna Moth
  • Skipper spp.

Catalpa

  • Catalpa Sphinx
  • Ceanothus americanus
  • Filamont Beaver
  • Spring/Summer Azure

Celtis spp. – Hackberry

  • American Snout
  • Io Moth
  • Question Mark
  • Mourning Cloak
  • Spiny Oak Slug
  • Tawny Emperor
  • Comptonia
  • Gray Hairstreak

Cornus spp. – Dogwood

  • Monkey Slug
  • Dogwood Thyativid
  • Polyphemus Moth
  • Spring/Summer Azure
  • Unicorn Caterpillar

Corylus spp. – Filbert

  • Polyphemus Moth
  • Saddled Prominent

Crataegus spp. – Hawthorn

  • Interruped Dagger Moth
  • Small Eyed Sphinx
  • Smeared Dagger Moth
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Fraxinus spp.
  • American Dagger Moth
  • Black Auches
  • Giant Leopard Moth
  • Harvis Three-Spot
  • Hickory Horned Devil
  • Linden Looper
  • Spiny Oak Slug
  • Tiger Swallowtail
  • Lindera benzoin
  • Giant Leopard Moth
  • Promethea Moth
  • Spicebush Swallowtail

Populus spp. – Poplar

  • Compton Tortoiseshell
  • Red-spotted Purple
  • Twin Spotted Sphinx
  • Satin Moth
  • Sigmoid Prominent
  • Viceroy
  • Virgin Moth

Prunus spp. – Cherry

  • Cherry Dagger Moth
  • Coral Hairstreak
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Viceroy
  • Wild Cherry Sphinx

Prunus serotina – Black Cherry

  • Tiger Swallowtail
  • Red-spotted Purple

Ptelea trifoliata – Common hoptree

  • Giant Swallowtail
  • Quercus spp.
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Edward’s Hairstreak
  • Banded Hairstreak

Rhus spp. – Sumac

  • Spring/Summer Azure

Ribes spp. – Currant

  • Gray Comma
  • Rubus spp.
  • Sphinx Hairstreak

Salix spp. – Willow

  • Acadian Hairstreak
  • Compton Tortoiseshell
  • Mourning Cloak
  • Northern Finned Prominent
  • Red-spotted Purple
  • Striped Hairstreak
  • Viceroy
  • Sassafras albidum
  • Cecropia Moth
  • Imperial Moth
  • Io Moth
  • Spicebush Swallowtail
  • Smilax
  • Spotted Phosphila
  • Turbulent

Spiraea spp. – Spirea

  • Woolly Bear

Tilia spp. – Basswood

  • Question Mark

Viburnum spp.

  • Hummingbird Cloverwing
  • Vitis spp.
  • Grapeleaf Skeletoniter
  • Xanthoxylum spp.
  • Giant Swallowtail
  • Skipper spp.

© The Naturarian

Know, Know, Know Your Oaks


I was taught this song in my college trees class. The student that shared it with the class said she had learned it Girl Scouts.

There are several species or types of oaks. The White Oak is the state tree of Illinois, among other states. Sing this song to the tune of “Row, row, row your boat” to try to identify what type of oak you are looking at. The branching structures will match the song.

Know, know know your oaks,

Look at how they grow

Red oak, White oak, Pin oak, Bur oak

Red Oak (make a ‘V’ with your arms above your head)

White Oak (hold your arms straight out from your shoulders)

white oak

Pin Oak (make an upside down “V” with your arms pointing toward the ground)

pin oak

Bur Oak (make your arms twist in different directions)

Bur oak

And the acorns down below! (wiggle your fingers and point to the ground)

© The Naturarian

 

Trees and Shrubs For Midwestern Clay Soils

Most of the Midwestern area is comprised of clay soils. Never fear! This is a much better situation to have than sandy soils. Clay soils maintain more minerals and moisture than other soils.

Sometimes clay soils can be bad, such as in conditions where there are more problems than just the soil. If while digging in the soil, it looks blueish-black and smells kinda off, this is because of poor drainage and the smell is from rotting organisms. The area should be assessed for drainage problems before anything else is done.

If the clay is a redish-orange, this is perfect as the soil is holding all the minerals plants crave.

With regards to planting woody plants, be sure to plant these correctly and never lower than the top of the roots of the rootball. If you’re at all concerned about the clay content of your soil, plant you woody plant a bit higher. Trust me, they will love you for it!!

Trees for Clay Soils

Scientific NameCommon NameGrow Zone
Abies balsameaBalsam fir3
Abies concolorWhite fir4
Acer freemaniiFreeman maple4
Acer ginnalaAmur or ginnala maple3
Acer platanoidesNorway maple4
Acer rubrumRed maple3
 Acer saccharinumSilver maple3
Alnus glutinosaEuropean alder4
Betula nigraRiver birch4
Carpinus carolinianaBlue beech4
Carya cordiformisBitternut hickory4
Carya ovataShagbark hickory4
Celtis occidentalisCommon hackberry2
Crataegus speciesHawthorn3-4
Fraxinus nigraBlack ash3
Fraxinus pennsylvanicaGreen ash3
Ginkgo bilobaGinkgo4
Gleditsia triacanthosCommon honeylocust4
Gymnocladus dioicusKentucky coffeetree4
Juglans cinereaButternut4
Juglans nigraBlack walnut4
Larix deciduaEuropean larch4
Larix laricinaTamarack2
Malus speciesApple, crabapple3
Phellodendron amurenseAmur corktree4
Picea abiesNorway spruce4
Picea glauca var. densataBlack Hills spruce4
Pinus nigraAustrian pine4
Pinus strobusWhite pine3
Pinus sylvestrisScots pine3
Pinus ponderosaPonderosa pine4
Populus speciesAspen, cottonwood2
Pyrus speciesPear4-5
Quercus bicolorSwamp white oak4
Quercus macrocarpaBur oak3
Salix speciesWillow2
Syringa reticulataJapanese tree lilac4
Tilia speciesLinden, basswood3
Ulmus speciesElm4

Shrubs for Clay Soils

Scientific NameCommon NameGrow Zone
Amelanchier speciesServiceberry4
Aronia melanocarpaChokeberry3
Caragana arborescensSiberian peashrub3
Cephalanthus occidentalisButtonbush4
Cornus albaTatarian dogwood3
Cornus alternifoliaPagoda dogwood4
Cornus racemosaGrey dogwood3
Cornus sericeaRed osier dogwood3
Diervilla loniceraDwarf bush-honeysuckle3
Elaeagnus commutataSilverberry2
Euonymus alatusBurning bush3
Forsythia x ‘Meadowlark’‘Meadowlark’ forsythia3
Forsythia x ‘Northern Sun’‘Northern Sun’ forsythia3
Hamamelis virginianaWitch hazel4
Ilex verticillataWinterberry4
Juniperus species (most)Juniper3
Physocarpus opulifoliusCommon ninebark2
Potentilla FruticosaPotentilla2
Rhus speciesSumac2
Ribes alpinumAlpine currant2
Ribes odoratumClove currant2
Rosa rugosaRugosa rose2
Salix speciesWillow2
Sambucus canadensisAmerican elderberry3
Spiraea speciesSpirea3-4
Symphoricarpos albusWhite snowberry3
Syringa speciesLilac2
Thuja occidentalisArborvitae, white cedar3
Viburnum dentatumArrowwood viburnum3
Viburnum lentagoNannyberry viburnum2
Viburnum opulusEuropean cranberry bush3
Viburnum sargentiiSargent viburnum4
Viburnum trilobumHighbush cranberry bush2

© The Naturarian

Signs of Spring in the Midwest: Yellow Willows (Salix)

One of the first signs of spring (to me) is when the willows start to turn bright yellow. You can’t miss them in the dreary, white, Midwestern landscape.

Some Facts About the Willow (Salix):

  • When compared to other trees, life span of a weeping willow is shorter because of its fast growing nature, some don’t thrive past 30 years.
  • They need to be grown in full sun.
  • Their height and width can be 30 to 55 feet. Willows can grow 10 inches in a good growing year.
  • The fruit of the tree is a small brown capsule. It is around half-inch long.
  • The tree is very brittle because it grows quite rapidly.
  • The bark turns reddish/brown during the winter and yellow/green in the spring.
  • Pests like aphids and tent caterpillars can destroy the tree quite quickly. You should frequently check for conditions like powdery mildew, crown gall, and canker.
  • You may cut some branches in spring, remove the bottom leaves and put them in a jar of water. Keep the jar out in the sun. Roots will grow within 15 to 20 days. However, if you want a specific variety, it is better to buy it.
  • Historically, beautiful baskets are woven using willow stems.

Country folk have known the healing properties of willow for a long time. They made an infusion from the bark as a remedy for colds, fevers, and to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism. Young willow twigs were also chewed to relieve pain. In the early nineteenth century, modern science isolated the active ingredient responsible, salicylic acid, which was also found in the meadowsweet plant Filipendula ulmaria. From this the world’s first synthetic drug, acetylasylic acid, was developed and marketed as Aspirin, named after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spirea ulmaria. Botanists love to change the names of plants!

Most willow species grow and prosper close to water or in damp places, and this premise is reflected in the legends associated with these trees. The moon too recurs as a theme, the movement of water being intimately connected with and affected by the moon. For example, Hecate the powerful Greek goddess of the moon and of willow, also taught sorcery and witchcraft, and was ‘a mighty and formidable divinity of the Underworld’. Helice was also associated with water, and her priestesses utilized willow in their water magic and witchcraft. The willow muse, called Heliconian after Helice, was sacred to poets, and the Greek poet Orpheus brought willow branches on his adventures in the Underworld. Apollo also gave Orpheus a lyre, and it is interesting to note that the sound boxes of harps used to be carved from solid willow wood.

© The Naturarian

Vines Growing on Trees – Good or Bad?

Trumpet vine on tree

Trumpet vine on tree

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.)

blooming trumpet vine

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….

    

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