First I want to wish every reader and gardener a very Happy New Year! I expect great things from all of you this brand new year.
And I am here hopefully to guide you down the right path.
My first topic of the new year is about hazard trees, what to look for and how to prevent them. The first order of business is to define what a hazard tree actually is. A hazard tree is any tree with a structural defect that may cause a part of the tree or the whole tree to fall on someone or something of value, such as your car or house.
There can be legal ramifications pertaining to hazard trees. Some states or municipalities call damage from falling trees or limbs an "act of God," meaning the owner is not legally responsible for this damage or bodily injury to others. But even in many of these situations, if a tree is deemed a hazard tree by an "expert" the "act of God" exemption no longer applies and the tree's owner is legally liable.
So unless you want to be "taken out" by one of your trees, have your house or other valuable property damaged, or have liability issues with others, you need to recognize a potential hazard tree and do something about it. By the way, this does not always mean the tree must be cut down. Sometimes some judicious pruning will suffice.
A careful inspection is needed of each tree in question. Look at branches, along the trunk, and at the tree's base and roots. Remember that some trees are more prone to brittle branches and other problems than others.
These would certainly include cottonwoods, silver maples, box elders and globe willows.
Try to determine if the tree is dead or dying. Look at its base. Is there rotten wood there, decay or cankers? Is there a hollow cavity at the tree's base? Are there fungi growing in that area? Are there any visible wounds or cracks? These are all signs of a tree in trouble and in decline — a potential hazard tree needing removal.
Look for dead limbs. These can be removed by either you or a tree expert. Limbs larger than one inch are a potential hazard. Does the tree have narrow forks between multiple trunks or large branches? These are weak areas that can easily break in the wind. If a tree starts leaning, it might signal a weakening of its anchoring roots. If there has been any construction near the tree where digging or trenching was involved, the tree's roots may have been compromised.
In many cases, potential hazard trees do not need to be cut down. If they can be pruned properly with the removal of dead limbs and weak or crossing limbs then they can live another day providing shade and beauty to your landscape. By planting the right kinds of trees and keeping up with proper annual pruning as needed, hazard trees can be avoided.
Trees can grow to a ripe old age without ever being designated a hazard tree if you do your part. If you have any questions about the status of your trees, please don't hesitate to call Colorado Extension. There are Master Gardeners who can help. The Cedaredge Tree Board hosts an annual sick tree day in the summer for those with hazard tree concerns or other tree problems. And of course there are tree experts for hire who can help you in your evaluations and corrective measures. Don't get in over your head if a major pruning or tree removal is needed.
Until next time, stay warm, burn some of that firewood, read plant and seed catalogs, and plan for next season's gardens.
Jim Leser retired to Cedaredge after a career with Texas A&M University Extension in entomology. He is a member of the Cedaredge Tree Board and a master gardener.blog comments powered by Disqus