Trees hold a special role in our landscape. Because they take years to establish, they are viewed as the overall framework of our outdoor spaces. Everything else–the lawn, other landscaping, and even the house itself–must work around the trees. Over time, though, your trees can reach a point where they should no longer be left in the landscape. Instead, they need to be carefully removed and, ideally, replaced with a new one. It’s a difficult decision that can be guided with these five principles.
It’s Losing Limbs
Unlike animals, plants can die a little at a time, and trees are an obvious example. Tree limbs can die as a result of wind damage, insect problems, poor maintenance, or disease. The problem may not be obvious right away, but over a period of years the limb will become more visibly decayed.
Eventually, it will become fragile enough that a burst of wind will bring it down. This can result in damage to property or injuries to human beings. A tree that is losing limbs on a regular basis is dangerous enough, but those limbs might also be a sign of a problem severe enough to bring down the whole tree.
Insects Have Taken Over
Every tree has a bug or two on it, and it’s normally not a problem. After all, the tree is just part of the natural habitat for lots of creatures, not just insects. A tree may need to be removed if the insects are a sign of a larger decay problem or if they are an invasive species.
The emerald ash borer is one example. It is responsible for destroying countless trees in the United States. Should you have an ash tree with signs of borer damage, it may have to go. The southern pine beetle is another pest that necessitates tree removal. Consult a qualified expert to determine what your exact pest problem is.
The Tree Has Outgrown Its Space
We plant trees when they’re small and often forget how much room they’ll need when they’re large. Over time, the limbs can grow into buildings, power lines, and other objects. They may also overreach property lines.
Light trimming can sometimes manage this issue, but topping is not an option. In many cases the tree will need to be removed completely. If not, the costs and hazards associated with its overgrowing behavior will only get worse.
Heavy Storm Damage
High winds are the biggest enemy of a tree, and other weather conditions can make things even worse. Ice storms, wet snow, and hail can all make it tough for a tree to persevere. If these conditions have led to heavy damage to the tree, it will need to be removed.
Large wounds simply don’t heal. The pruning cuts made with saws are smooth and clean, allowing the tree to create a “scab” that promotes healing. The large, splintered breaks from storm damage can never be fully enclosed again. Instead, they’ll be an entry point for diseases and insects that will ultimately bring the tree down.
Some trees develop a dangerous framework in their earliest years. A fork close to the ground or any split that is too wide or too narrow is likely to lead to limb breakage during bad weather. With certain species, the problem is even worse.
Maples and Bradford pears are among the most fragile trees. If they do not have an appropriate structure, they will break randomly and create damage to buildings and vehicles. Trees with these problems should be removed.
No one likes to think that a tree they’ve had for 30 years needs to be cut, but it’s a decision that must be made with the head and not the heart. Taking an honest assessment of the tree’s condition and the problems it presents is the only way to make the right decision about whether to keep it around.