Trees are an important part of our world. They offer a wide range of benefits to the environment and provide tremendous beauty.

However trees may be dangerous. Trees or parts of trees may fall and cause injury to people or damage to property. We call trees in such situations hazardous, to signify the risk involved with their presence. While every tree has the potential to fall, only a small number actually hit something or someone.

It is an owner’s responsibility to provide for the safety of trees on his/her property. Following are some tips for identifying the common defects associated with tree hazards. However, evaluating the seriousness of these defects is best done by a professional arborist.

Regular tree care will help identify hazardous trees and the risk they present. Once the hazard is recognized, steps may be taken to reduce the likelihood of the tree falling and injuring someone.

Hazardous Trees and Utility Lines

Trees that fall into utility lines have additional serious consequences. Not only can they injure people or property near the line, but hitting a line may cause power outages, surges, fires and other damage. Downed lines still conducting electricity are especially dangerous. A tree with a potential to fall into a utility line is a very serious situation.

Tree Hazard Checklist

Consider these questions…

  • Are there large dead branches in the tree?
  • Are there detached branches hanging in the tree?
  • Does the tree have cavities or rotten wood along the truck or in major branches?
  • Are mushrooms present at the base of the tree?
  • Are there cracks or splits in the truck or where branches are attached?
  • Have any branches fallen from the tree?
  • Have adjacent trees fallen over or died?
  • Has the trunk developed a strong lean?
  • Do many of the major branches arise from one point on the trunk?
  • Have the roots been broken off, injured or damaged by lowering the soil level, installing pavement, repairing sidewalks or digging trenches?
  • Has the site recently been changed by construction, raising the soil level or installing lawns?
  • Have the leaves prematurely developed an unusual color or size?
  • Have trees in adjacent wooded areas been removed?
  • Has the tree been topped or otherwise heavily pruned?

Examples of Defects Present in Urban Trees

Examples of Defects Present in Urban Trees

  1. Regrowth from topping, line clearance or other pruning
  2. Electrical line adjacent to tree
  3. broken or partially attached branch
  4. Open cavity in branch or trunk
  5. Dead or dying branches
  6. Branches arise at one point on the trunk
  7. Decay and rot present in old wounds
  8. Recent change in grade, soil level or other construction

Examples of Defects Present in Rural Trees

Examples of Defects Present in Rural Trees

  1. Recent site construction, grading and tree removal;
    clearing of forests for development
  2. Previous tree failures in teh local area
  3. Tree leaning near target
  4. Forked trunk; branches stems equal in size
  5. Wet areas with shallow soil

Managing Tree Hazards

One of these treatments may help make your trees safer…
Reducing the risk associated with hazardous trees can take many forms. An arborist familiar with hazard tree evaluation may suggest one or more of the following:

  • Remove the target. While we can’t move our home or a nearby power line, we can sometimes move picnic tables, cars, landscape features, etc. to prevent them from being hit by a falling tree.
  • Prune the tree. Remove the defective brances of the tree. Since inappropriate pruning may also weaken a tree, it is best done by a Certified Arborist.
  • Cable and brace the tree. Provide physical support for weak branches and stems to increase their strength and stability.
  • Provide routine care. Mature trees need routine care in the form of water, fertilizer (in some cases), mulch and pruning as dictated by the season and their structure.
  • Remove the tree. Some hazardous trees are best removed. If possible, plant a new tree in an appropriate place as a replacement.

Ensuring Quality Care for Your Trees

Trees are assets to your home and community and deserve the best possible care…

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions in the Tree Hazard Checklist, or see any of the defects contained in the illustrations, please call on us to provide expert tree care.

If your tree is located near a power line, contact your local electrical utility.