A pivotal part of our mission here at TreeMasters is the evaluation of trees “in trouble”. It’s our job to assist the tree’s owners as they come to decisions about a tree’s future and any investments that need to be made to improve its health or longterm viablity. Hundreds of times each season, we inspect trees and render opinions as to the future of a tree and the potential costs associated with the tree’s preservation (or removal).
Trees are “bimodal” organisms: they are botanical and they are structural. And so that means that there are two avenues for tree evaluation.
The botanical aspects of the tree are the ‘living’ components of the organism; they are its future. Leaves, sapwood, bark and roots of all sizes are both conductive of the tree’s life and descriptive of its experience. Trees can be “read” just like a book… what we see tells us its story.
For most people, the “green” part of the tree is desired and most easily observed. We pay attention to the leaves; we monitor their colors, and notice them when they change or drop off. But there is so much more we can learn and interpret from the leaves. If a branch or section of the plant loses leaves, it may be a warning, a sign of negative actions on or in the tree.
Trees are first and foremost energy systems. They function as energy collectors, manufacturing centers, and carbon storage units. Here is where the “green” functions. Limits in any form compromise the manufacture of sugars and hormones and thus the vigor and future of the tree.
The structure of a tree is the historical record of its growth and its vitality (as evidenced by its manufacture of wood). The wood is engineered both by its genetics and its site dynamics. The wood of a tree is the result of the tree’s botanical actions: it records the history of the tree and the site’s effects upon it. The formation of wood also sets the foundation for the future of the tree.
As trees grow they create a “body language”. A tree grows in response to its environment and things happening to the tree. Effects on a tree are frozen in the wood – here a trained eye can read the past and project the future.
Failure of the wood structure can have grave consequences, given that most trees have tons of wood in the air. We often assume risks for trees “breaking up” without thought. We see the wood but it doesn’t register until something breaks off.
A tree’s failure is an engineering failure, the same as any structure. The failure may be induced by weather or trauma, but it is based upon the building of the tree in the past and the attacks it has received from insects, disease and environmental impacts.
It’s obvious that taking care of our trees today will result in strong and healthy trees in the years to come.
Jeff Ling is a Registered Consulting Arborist and Co-Founder of TreeMasters, Inc., a full service arbor-care company, located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It services tree owners with scientific tree management services throughout Indiana, southern Michigan and western Ohio.