Tree Care Clearwater, Fl

This section offers information on a wide variety of tree care

Tree Care in Clearwater, Fl

Tree Care in Clearwater, Fl

related subjects designed to help you understand the various factors that affect your tree’s health. This section is not intended as a primer to prepare property owners to treat their own trees but rather to acquaint the tree care owner with situations that require a consultation with an arborist. Trees are very complex organisms and the problems that affect trees in the urban environment are often multi-layered and require the diagnostic skills of a competent arborist who understands tree physiology and the science of tree care. If you suspect your tree has a problem consult with an expert.

Pinellas County Tree Removal Form – click here

Hillsborough County Tree Removal Form – click here

Soil Fill for Tree Care

Soil fill for tree care. The fine roots that absorb water and nutrients can extend one and a half to two times the dripline (an area equal to the outer branch spread projected vertically to the ground) of your tree. When you are follow best tree care practices, these roots typically grow close to the surface and require an exchange of gases (oxygen into the soil and carbon dioxide out) at the soil surface to stay healthy. Placing 2-3 inches or more of fill over the existing root system can cause a tree to become stressed and susceptible to problems that can lead to decline and death. Be careful when installing a planter around an existing tree. Many large shade trees have been inadvertently killed by constructing a planter around an existing tree and placing fill within the planter to install shrubs. If you desire to place a planter around an existing tree construct a low planter (4 – 6 inches) and use one gallon shrubs as they have a small root ball and will only need a shallow hole. Place no more than 2-3 inches of fill and 2-3 inches of coarse organic mulch. If you top dress your lawn or have to add fill be sure to use soil that has a similar texture as the existing soil. For example, if you have sandy soil then use a coarse textured soil as fill material. A tree care Horticultural agent from the County Cooperative Extension Service may be able to assist you with identifying your soil texture. If you have to raise the grade greater than three inches within the dripline of your trees consult with an ISA Certified Arborist for tree care advice.

Irrigating for Tree Care

Trenching for irrigation, lighting, plumbing etc. Tree roots require oxygen to function properly, consequently the majority of a tree’s root system is typically located within 12″ of the soil surface where oxygen is plentiful. When an open trench is cut within the dripline of a tree a percentage of the tree’s root system is severed and lost to the tree. In most tree species the roots extend one and a half to two times the dripline. Consequently, the closer to the trunk that a trench is cut the larger the percentage of root loss.

Roots provide four primary functions:

  1. Larger woody roots help anchor a tree.
  2. Fine roots absorb water and nutrients.
  3. Roots have conducting vessels that transport water and nutrients up the tree and conduct food manufactured in the leaves from the photosynthesis process throughout the root system.
  4. Roots store energy used by the tree.

Tree Care for Trenching around Trees

Before trenching within the dripline examine alternate methods. For instance, utilities or electrical conduits can sometimes be tunneled below the tree’s root system thus avoiding open trenching. Irrigation lines can sometimes be installed on the surface. Before trenching, a tree should be examined by a Certified Arborist to determine the tree’s overall health and the ability of the tree to withstand the anticipated root loss. In some cases municipal tree protection ordinances require root pruning prior to trenching activities. If trenching cannot be avoided, the damage caused backhoes and other machinery used to trench can be minimized by performing root pruning prior to the trenching. Root pruning should be performed or supervised by a Certified Arborist utilizing equipment designed for root pruning.

Soil Compaction for Tree Care

Tree roots need oxygen and grow best in soils that are aerated. Compacted soils have lower oxygen levels and hinder root penetration. Soil texture (percentage of sand, silt and clay particles) and structure (how soil aggregates are arranged) often determine how well aerated a volume of soil will be. Soil compaction adversely affects good texture and structure by compressing soil particles together and squeezing out oxygen. Soil around residential areas is often compacted by heavy equipment during house construction and later by simple foot traffic. It is important to protect as much of the rooting area of a tree as possible when construction activities will occur on your property or when heavy equipment will enter the property. Tree protection barricades can keep construction vehicles away from your trees. Tree protection barricades should be placed to protect as much as the rooting zone as possible within the barricaded area while allowing sufficient space for the construction activities. If the soil in your yard is compacted it can be improved by using an aerator. Consult with an arborist for this service. Foot traffic can be minimized by designing large mulched areas around trees.

String Trimmer & Lawnmower Damage to Trees

String trimmers and lawnmowers can cause serious and sometimes irreparable damage to trees. Young trees or trees with thin bark are especially vulnerable. The damage is caused when grass or weeds growing against the trunk of a tree are cut with a string trimmer, lawnmower or even a hand tool such as a hoe and the trunk is damaged in the process. The steel edge of a lawnmower deck or a nylon string can cut through thin bark and sever vascular tissue that conducts water, nutrients and food within the tree. If the tree is girdled by the damage it will probably die. Even minimal damage can stunt growth and become a point of infection. Placing large rings filled with mulch around a tree can minimize grass or weed growth and provide a protective buffer from string trimmers or lawnmowers. Place mulch at a depth of 2-3 inches but prevent organic mulches from touching the trunks of shrubs and trees as it can transmit a decaying agent to the trunk tissue.

Tree Herbicide Damage

Herbicides vary in their use and destructive abilities. Some non selective herbicides can easily kill a mature tree if the chemical is absorbed through the roots or stems. Selective herbicides formulated to kill weeds usually cause damage to trees through cumulative use. If you are using an herbicide to control weeds, check the label to see if it is safe to use within the dripline of broadleaf trees. Good tree care practices recommend following instructions regarding the strength and application rates of herbicides. If you are using a company that is applying herbicides, ask them if the product they are using is safe to use within the dripline of your trees. Check with the Cooperative Extension Service for questions related to herbicides.

Tree Care Structure

Tree care structure is determined by the configuration of the trunk and scaffold branches (the larger branches that establish the framework of a tree’s crown). Small trees such as crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) or tree ligustrum (Ligustrum japonicum) are typically multi-stemmed and lack a singular central trunk. As they are relatively small, failure of their branches rarely causes serious property damage or personal injury, consequently this section relates to the structure of shade tree species. Shade trees such as red maple (Acer rubrum) or live oak (Quercus virginiana) typically have a single leader trunk when they grow in a forest environment. Trees evolved in forests and mature forest trees have superior structure because they have tall relatively straight trunks with proportionately smaller branches forming the upper crown. In a virgin forest a tree such as a live oak may have a trunk free of branches up to 30′ or more. In a forest, essentially all light comes through the top of the forest canopy and growth is oriented in the direction of the light. In addition, the presence of adjacent trees naturally subordinates the growth of lateral branches. Another tree care force that drives a tree to grow upward faster than it can grow laterally is called apical dominance. Trees with strong apical dominance grow from the branch tips (apexes) at a fast rate because the plant hormone auxin located in the branch tips suppresses the growth of the lateral branches. Most conifer species such as pines, cypress and cedars have strong apical dominance and are much taller than they are wide. They typically have a single trunk (also called a central leader) and the lateral branches are usually one third or less the diameter of the trunk. This arrangement produces a structurally strong tree. Because the branches are considerably smaller than the trunk they usually develop branch collars. A branch collar develops when trunk and branch tissue overlap creating a very strong attachment point. When a branch collar forms properly a branch bark ridge will occur in the crotch between the branch and trunk. The branch bark ridge appears as a line of raised bark in the center of the crotch as the bark tissue is pushed up by the expanding trunk and branch tissues. Unless there is decay present, a branch with a collar has tremendous structural strength and would need a great force to shear it from the tree.

The branches of hardwood trees such as oak and hickory have relatively weak apical dominance and when planted in an open urban environment will develop large spreading crowns. Trees with wide spreading crowns rarely have a central leader trunk, but rather have multiple trunks or leaders. When two or more leaders of approximately the same diameter emanate from the same area of the tree they are referred to as Codominant stems. Codominant stems are common on many hardwood species growing in urban environments and are considered in most cases to be structurally weak. A codominant stem may have a branch bark ridge present that gives it a stronger attachment when the tree is young. However, codominant stems typically have a narrow angle of attachment and as the tree grows and the leaders increase in diameter the crotch may become “pinched” and the bark grows inward instead of rising. When this occurs the condition is referred to as a codominant stem with included bark. What is not visible to the eye, when not using tree care, is the decay that forms in the wood tissue of the two stems in the crotch beneath the bark. In a branch with a collar the trunk and branch tissues are overlapping to give the branch a very strong attachment and the tree structural strength. In a codominant stem with included bark the tissues are not connective but grow against each other, self wounding and causing decay. Codominant stems with included bark are structurally weak and prone to fail. Most commonly they fail when the tree is mature as the limbs are heavy and the decay in the crotch has weakened the wood to the point that it can no longer support its weight. Large trees, ones don’t have proper tree care, that have codominant stems with included bark have significant potential to cause serious damage. Failure occurs most often at the base of the tree when two or more trunks emanate from the ground or on the large scaffold branches located within 15′ of the ground. If a tree is diagnosed with this condition an Arborist has several options: The weak crotch can be cabled and braced, one codominant can be removed, the branch can be subordinated, the branch may be able to be pruned to remove weight or in extreme instances the tree will have to be removed. A trained arborist should be able to decide what treatment is best for the tree based on the severity of this condition.

The important point is that the formation of codominant stems can be avoided if young trees are pruned to develop good structure. Start by planting a tree that has been graded as a Florida #1 grade or better according to Florida’s Division of Plant Industry’s grades and standards for landscape plants. A tree that has been graded as a #1 quality will have a central leader with properly spaced scaffold branches. Periodic pruning will maintain the good structure until the tree reaches its mature size. A tree with good structure will require less pruning overall and will last in your landscape. To learn more about good structure in trees contact the National Arbor Day Foundation to obtain a copy of the pamphlet “How to prune young shade trees” or purchase Dr. Ed Gilman’s book, An Illustrated Guide to Pruning, second edition ( ).

Chains, Ropes, and Wires can Impact Tree Care

Chains, ropes and wires used to hold swings, act as clotheslines or support young trees can girdle a tree and cause damage to vascular tissue. Sometimes the girdling will kill a tree while other times the tree may grow around the object and it will become permanently embedded. In any instance it will cause unnecessary wounding that leads to internal decay. Remove support wires as soon as the tree is stabilized and re-position or cushion chains and ropes to avoid damage.

Fertilization for Tree Care

Too often homeowners fertilize not because they need to but because they believe they are supposed to. The fertilization of urban trees is a complex and at times controversial issue when considering proper tree care. In addition, it is very site specific. One school of thought maintains that existing trees that do not exhibit nutrient deficiencies should still be fertilized in a proactive manner to maximize growth and ensure that overall tree health is maintained. A second line of reason suggests that trees not exhibiting deficiencies are obtaining adequate nutrients and excessive fertilization could cause damage to the tree. There is truth in both camps. It is critical to keep trees healthy so they do not become physiologically stressed to the point that they are susceptible to disease organisms or insect attack. But unnecessary fertilization can also cause luxuriant growth that increases the tree’s water demand and overall maintenance requirements. Increased growth can also attract insects and sometimes occurs at the expense of the tree’s defense system. In addition, excessive fertilization can pollute water bodies due to surface run-off and contaminate groundwater. An important aspect of the fertilization question is the cultural practice at a given site. For instance, is nutrient cycling occurring, is an organic mulch in use, is irrigation present, is the lawn being fertilized and do the plants present have the same basic nutritional and soil pH needs? It is common to visit a subdivision built on a sandy ridge and observe plants that require high amounts of water and nutrients growing beside the native plants the thrive in infertile soils that have minimal water retention. One solution is to have soil samples from the site analyzed to determine the soil pH, salt content and nutrient levels before starting on a program of fertilization. Secondly, have a plant professional (Certified Arborist, Horticulturalist) inspect the plant palette at the site and determine if the plants are for the most part compatible in their water and nutrient requirements. Once the information is analyzed the plant professional should be able to prescribe a plan of maintenance. An ideal situation is to incorporate as much of the existing native plants into the site design from the outset. Native plants are already adapted to the water and nutrient availability in the soil and should continue to thrive if nutrient cycling is allowed to occur. A landscape featuring native plants can be amended with exotic plants to create desired effects as long as they are not invasive species and they have similar cultural requirements. Putting the right plant in the right place from the beginning will eliminate much of the need for excessive fertilization and will help conserve water and valuable natural resources.


Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens) is a plant parasite that infests mostly thin barked trees such as water oak, laurel oak, river birch and Chickasaw plumb. The mistletoe seeds are disseminated by birds or by simply falling onto lower branches. The seeds produce roots that work their way into the vascular system through lenticels or axillary buds and remove water and nutrients from the stem. In time they can kill the branch and heavy infestations can kill an entire tree. Mistletoe is best observed in the winter as it is an evergreen and stands out in the crowns of deciduous trees. Mistletoe should be removed as soon as it is discovered. Mistletoe is removed by cutting the infested branch back to where it is attached. Mistletoe removal should be performed by a professional arborist.


The two common “mosses” found in trees are ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata) and Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides). These two plants are not true mosses but are bromeliads. They live in the canopies of trees or other places their holdfasts can attach too such as fences and telephone poles. They are classified as perennial herbs as they lack woody stems. They are epiphytes (air plants), and they obtain minerals dissolved in water for their nutrition. They are not parasites (they do not take food directly from the host plant) but collect moisture from the air or from water that drips down stems and leaves. Many people are of the opinion that moss adds aesthetic value to trees. Ball moss and Spanish moss are rarely a problem to trees and the two have coexisted throughout time. However, in some circumstances moss can be a problem. If an older tree has a heavy accumulation of moss on a structurally weak branch it could contribute to the branches failure. Moss accumulates weight by absorbing water during wet weather and this factor could overload the branches ability to support itself. Heavy infestations of moss can also cause problems by reducing net photosynthesis through shading. Clumps of moss block sunlight to the surface of leaves which reduces net photosynthesis. This situation could cause additional stress to trees in a low energy state. Moss can be controlled chemically or by physically removing it from the crown of a tree. Consult with a Certified Arborist if you are concerned about the moss in your tree.


Mulches are materials used to cover the soil. There is a variety of material used for mulching including both organic and inorganic. Examples of organic mulches include: leaves, pine straw, pine bark, and wood chips ( wood such as pine, cypress, cedar, oak, eucalyptus etc., which has been shredded or run through a chipping machine). Utility mulch is a raw mulch and the by product of tree trimming or removal operations and can consist of leaves, twigs, branches, seeds, moss, vines, mistletoe and sometimes fungi. Pinellas County provides free organic yard waste mulches that are heat treated to kill viable seed and pathogens. There are several locations to obtain the mulch. Call 464-7500 for further information. Inorganic mulches can include: gravel, stone, rubber (often in a variety of colors). Inorganic mulches do not provide nutrients, can increase soil surface temperatures and can be thrown by lawn mowers. Organic mulches are superior to the inorganic type.

Benefits of mulching include:

  • Conserves water by reducing surface evaporation
  • Regulates the soil surface temperature
  • Suppresses weeds
  • Cycles nutrients into soil
  • Prevents soil compaction
  • Stops soil crusting and soil splash
  • Increases rooting area
  • Improves overall landscape aesthetics

Place mulch to a depth of two to three inches and prevent mulch from touching the trunks of trees and shrubs as it may transmit a decaying agent to the trunk tissue.

Problem Trees that are hard to care for

Some tree species both native and exotic have inherent problems and are not recommended for use in an urban landscape. Exotic tree species such as the ear tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), chinaberry (Melia azedarach), Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), punk (Melaleuca quinquenervia), silk oak (Grevillea robusta) eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.) and Australian pine (Causarina spp.) are a few of the undesirable species. These species are subject to one or more of the following problems: weak wood that fails easily in high winds, susceptibility to freeze damage, shallow rooting that creates large surface roots in the lawn and makes the tree more likely to blow over in high winds, nutrient deficiencies, and insect and disease attack. In addition, they may be notoriously troublesome to maintain. The camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora) is a native of India that has naturalized in Central Florida. Many homeowners like its shape and “clean” crown. However, it grows to massive proportions and typically develops very large surface roots that can damage structures or create trip hazards. In addition, it needs an acidic soil with a moderate level of organics and will develop nutrient deficiencies as it matures on sandy soils. Many homeowners purchase Ficus species at a grocery store to use around the patio as a container plant. Once the plant has outgrown its container it is often planted in the lawn. Many Ficus species such as the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) and Cuban laurel (Ficus retusa) can become massive, reaching heights of 60′ with a crown spread of 100′. The tree grows fine until a hard freeze occurs and the homeowner is faced with a tree removal that will cost thousands of dollars. Some exotic trees such as the drake elm (Ulmus parvifolia ‘Drake’) and crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) have been valuable assets to landscapes without causing serious problems. Native tree species such as the sand pine (Pinus clausa) and the cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana) have characteristics that make them undesirable as landscape plants. The sand pine fares poorly in irrigated lawns where sod is present and stresses very easily making it highly susceptible to root diseases. When a severe storm occurs it is common to see sand pines lying on lawns or on top of roofs. The cherry laurel tree is a good small native tree that produces a fruit utilized by many songbirds but will send off adventitious shoots from the root system that will become small trees. They can colonize quickly and take over a backyard. Trees with undesirable characteristics should be removed unless the property owner is willing to cope with their problems. Contact an I.S.A. Certified Arborist or a Horticulture Agent from the Cooperative Extension Service for advice on recommended trees.

Soil pH Level for Tree Care

pH is a measure of acidity and alkalinity. pH is measured on a scale from 0 – 14 with 7 being neutral and below seven acidic and above seven alkaline. Soil pH determines the availability of certain nutrients. Some plants grow well in acidic soils and some in alkaline and some can tolerate certain levels of both. If you are planning to install a new landscape or adding a plant to an existing landscape it is important that you match the plant’s pH needs to the pH of the existing soil. Consult a Certified Arborist or a Horticulturalist for planting advice or contact a County Cooperative Extension Agent for instructions on how to prepare a soil sample. The County Extension Service will analyze your soil sample for a nominal fee and give you advice on plant usage. Soil pH can be affected by irrigation water supplied by a well. Well water is typically alkaline due to dissolved calcuim carbonate from limestone. If applied to a lawn over a long period of time the pH may raise to a level that affects plants requiring an acidic soil. Periodic testing of the soil is advisible if you have acid loving plants and use well water. A Horticultural Agent with the Cooperative Extension Service can advise you on how to apply sulphur to lower the soil pH.

Soil Salinity

Many coastal soils have high salinity and are not favorable for growth with plants that have a low salinity tolerance. If you live close to a salt water environment determine if the plants you desire to use in your landscape have a high salt tolerance. You can obtain this information from the Cooperative Extension Service.

Dieback of Trees

Dieback is a term used to describe the process when branches begin to dieback from the tips. Initially branch dieback appears as small dead twigs at the tip of the branch. As it progresses more of the branch dies and it is very noticeable in the top of the crown. Uniform dieback can be caused by old age but is more frequently an indicator of a root problem. A single dying branch could be caused by a squirrel, insect, disease or physical wound. If you see multiple branches with dieback in the upper crown of your tree call a Certified Arborist to assess the cause.


Energy is the driving force of all life. Without energy there is no life. Improper tree care practices will lead to a tree running low on energy. When a tree runs out of energy it dies. No process in tree care maintenance is more important than understanding how a tree makes and uses energy. And all work performed on a tree should be performed with the thought of how the work will effect the tree’s energy system. A tree obtains energy from the photosynthesis process. The tree’s fine roots absorb water and nutrients (Nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, sulfur etc.) dissolved in soil water and transport them via the xylem vessels to the leaves. In the photosynthesis process sunlight converts the raw substances in the leaves to chemical energy that the tree can use and transports it throughout the tree in the phloem vessels. Tree care food (photosynthate) is actually carbohydrates such as glucose, proteins, amino acids etc. The tree care food is stored as a starch in tissues throughout the tree. Tree care food is used by the tree for growth, cell maintenance and defense. In a good year a tree will manufacture more food than it will need and store the surplus for future use. A tree in this condition will experience optimal growth and maintain a strong defense system. The essential components of the photosynthesis process are the availability of water and nutrients, an adequate root system for absorption, foliage to carry out the photosynthesis process and a healthy vascular system (phloem and xylem) for transport. A tree can experience stress when one or more of these components are affected. Some conditions that affect a tree’s energy system are as follows: nutritional deficiencies in the soil will reduce the amount of photosynthate produced, a soil ph that is too high or low will reduce or eliminate the availability of some nutrients, during drought conditions there may not be sufficient water to transport the nutrients, a trench cut too close to a tree will sever many of the absorbing roots and there will not be a sufficient root system to transport the water and nutrients, a tree that is pruned too heavy may not have enough foliage to produce the photosynthate needed to support the tree, insects that defoliate a tree or feed on the vascular system adversely affect energy production and diseases that debilitate the vascular system will reduce the capability of transport. Understanding how a tree obtains energy, stores energy, uses energy and loses energy is the genesis of tree care.

Check your Trees Regularly

Another good tree care practice is to get into the habit of studying your trees in each season and note the overall appearance of the trunk, branches, root collar and foliage. Too often a homeowner, who is not using proper tree care techniques, only notices the tree when it is dead or dying and too late to correct the problem. The problems that lead to tree decline and death are classified as either acute or chronic. Lightning striking a tree and causing it to die suddenly is an example of an acute problem. A hard freeze that kills a plant in one day is an acute problem. But many problems are chronic, that is, they occur over a long time period and they often show signs of stress along the way. For example, many pine trees die when the soil pH rises due to watering with well water. The bedrock of our area is limestone and limestone is very alkaline. As groundwater dissolves limestone calcium carbonate leaches into the water causing it to become alkaline. After watering our lawns for many years with well water our normally acidic soils can progressively become more alkaline. Pine trees need iron in the soil to help manufacture chlorophyll. Iron dissolves in soil moisture in acidic conditions. The tree absorbs iron dissolved in soil water. If the pH is too high iron does not dissolve and the tree cannot absorb it. The process happens slowly with less and less iron available each year. The tree begins to turn slightly yellow (a condition defined as chlorosis due to a reduction of the greening agent chlorophyll) and finally totally chlorotic (all yellow). As chlorophyll is a main constituent of photosynthesis the tree’s food production decreases as the chlorosis increases. When the tree runs out of energy it dies and turns brown. The point is that it often takes several years for chlorosis to kill a tree but few homeowners notice the condition until it is too late. Too much soil fill over a root system can kill a tree slowly. The first signs are dead twigs at the tips of the branch. This progresses into dead branches and then a dead tree. A tree can die in one year from too much soil fill or it may take five years. In both cases the tree could be saved if the problem is detected early. If you get into the habit of studying your trees you will know when something is amiss.

Tree care inspections should include the trunk for wounds, cavities, cracks, discolored areas (staining or exuding sap), sunken areas (cankers), small round holes stained beneath, and sporophores (also called conks they are the fruiting bodies of a fungus and come in various colors and shapes that are usually seen attached to the bark). A tree trunk can be hollow but not have an opening in the trunk to indicate the problem. Tap on the trunk and listen for a hollow sound. Inspect the large branches for cracks, splits, discoloration and sporophores. The root collar is the area where the tree’s trunk typically flares at the base and develops large woody roots that descend into the soil. This area is very vulnerable when damaged. Check the flare and large surface roots for wounds, discoloration or sporophores. If you notice a collection of fine “sawdust” in a pile around the base of the tree it likely indicates the presence of a boring insect and a stressed tree. The foliage tells many stories about the tree’s health. A healthy tree typically has dense foliage with good color. If you observe foliage that appears pale, streaked with yellow, brown on the edges, spotted or chewed there may be a problem. In addition, if the leaves appear smaller than usual or the crown seems thinner there may be a problem. Call a consulting arborist or talk with an agent from the Co-operative Extension Service if you suspect your tree has a problem.

Storm Preparedness for Your Trees

The Tampa Bay is subject to severe weather on an annual basis. Thunderstorms with heavy rains, high winds and lightning are commonplace in the summer months and tropical storms, hurricanes and tornadoes threaten our area as well. A single thunderstorm may cause a few trees to fall down and result in lost power and property damage. A catastrophic weather event such as a tropical storm with seventy miles an hour wind may cause hundreds of trees to fall resulting in widespread loss of power and millions of dollars in property damage. It would be easy to conclude that trees present a liability to the properties where they grow. But this is simply not the case. After hurricane Andrew in 1992 a study concluded that houses with trees in the yard received less damage than houses without trees. Trees intercept the energy force from high winds and buffer houses. Even in a storm as savage as hurricane Andrew, a relatively low percentage of trees actually fell. Trees have been engineered by nature to withstand most severe weather events. Data from both hurricane Andrew and Hugo suggest that most of the trees that fell or suffered breakage of large scaffold branches were either rooted in low lying saturated ground or predisposed to failure due to structural defects, e.g., diseased structural roots, trunks with cavities, codominant stems in scaffold branches or weak wooded tree species. There are four basic ways trees fail during storms when tree care is not tended to:

Branches in the crown can shear due to high winds Trees fail where cavities and rotten wood are present Codominant stems fail Trees uproot

For the most part trees can be an asset rather than a liability in storms if the right tree species are used and they are maintained correctly. However, it is impossible to grow a tree that is completely storm proof. The science that studies the mechanics of tree structure has made great advancements but is still inconclusive. Trees respond in many ways to forces such as wind and gravity. They develop tension wood, compression wood and flexure wood. For instance the wood of a tree will be different on the windward side of a stem than on the leeward side in areas that have prevailing winds. In addition, a tree may develop smaller leaves and shorter stouter branches to reduce the drag effect. There are several scientific models that measure the wind loading capacity of different species in an attempt to predict a point at which a tree is likely to fail. However, the properties of wood are so variable and influenced by factors such as disease, age, wounds, and prior maintenance that no model can accurately predict a constant rate at which a tree will fail. However, we know that certain tree species hold up better in storms. For instance of the three pine species native to the Tampa Bay area, sand pines (Pinus clausa) are very prone to fail during storms while slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) rarely fail.

As a tree grows the wood in the roots and branches will adapt to the forces of wind and gravity. That is why in the course of a normal tree care and a severe summer thunderstorm happens, it is unlikely to see an otherwise healthy tree fail. The tree has adapted over the years to the forces of a typical summer thunderstorm. What you usually see is the weaker wooded trees or diseased trees fail. However, few trees have ever experienced the force of a tropical storm or hurricane winds and have therefore not adapted to them. But even in a major hurricane condition, a tree with stronger wood that has been cared for properly may survive the storm with only minor damage. The following presents tips on minimizing the chances that your tree will experience failure during a storm event:

Select trees that have a good track record for surviving storms such as live oak, slash pine, Southern magnolia, pignut hickory, bald cypress. Avoid weak-wooded trees such as ear trees, jacaranda, Australian pine, sand pine, eucalyptus etc.

Taking tree care best practices into consideration, plant trees in locations where they are not next to a root barrier. For instance a tree planted in the middle of the yard will allow the root system to grow and support it from all directions, while a tree planted near a house will have a one sided root system and will be more likely to fall.

Best practices for Tree Care maintain that you should have your tree professionally pruned so that it has a central leader trunk with well spaced lateral branches. Avoid the formation of codominant stems. They are structurally weak and especially prone to fail on older, larger trees.

Avoid physical wounds or flush cuts that will evolve into decayed areas or cavities. Many tree failures resulted from wood that was decayed due to simple negligence.

Have dying, declining trees removed or trees in the group listed above that are weak-wooded and prone to fail.

When utilizing good tree care practices, have your trees pruned early in the year before the storms arrive. Keep branches well over your roof and away from structures. Remove dead, dying and defective branches. If you wait until a storm is approaching it will likely be too late.

Have your trees inspected annually by a competent I.S.A. Certified Arborist. The arborist can detect problems that could lead to failure during a storm and perform the remedial work.

Proper pruning, preventative maintenance and annual inspections are the cornerstones of having healthy trees and avoiding unnecessary storm damage.

Tree Care Maintenance in Clearwater, Fl

The science of Arboriculture encompasses comprehensive tree maintenance. Trees grow and change every year that they are alive. Weather events such as drought, flooding, high winds and lightning can have a profound effect on a tree’s health as can events such as trenching, herbicide use and the placement of fill over a tree’s root system. Have your trees checked annually by a competent I.S.A. Certified Arborist and perform prescribed work diligently. If trees are neglected poor structure can result, deadwood can accumulate and structural damage can occur. When trees are pruned after a long maintenance interval it is often too late to correct structural defects. In addition, some branches that will have to be removed will have grown large and will leave large wounds that may result in decay. Maintenance performed on trees after long intervals is generally very expensive and less effective. Performing annual tree maintenance will cost the homeowner less money and produce a healthier and safer tree.

Underground Utilities

Before installing new plants or irrigation check for underground utilities. Numerous utilities such as electric, phone, cable, gas, water, and sewer lines may be buried. If you are excavating in a right of way or easement call the Sunshine utility location service at 1-800-432-4770.

Homeowner Safety when doing Tree Care

This web-site contains information related to comprehensive tree care maintenance but is not designed for the purpose of encouraging or teaching homeowners to perform tree care maintenance. Tree work is the number one most hazardous occupation in the United States of America. One reason for this dubious ranking is the number of deaths and injuries occurring annually to individuals that are not trained on the equipment and techniques utilized in tree care maintenance. Trees contain hidden hazards such as energized wires, decayed wood and stinging insects. Cutting wood under tension with a saw requires a great deal of experience. Wood under tension can be unpredictable, especially to a novice. Working from a ladder or in the crotch of a tree is extremely dangerous for persons that are untrained. A safe tree worker is someone who has received the proper tree care training and wears the required safety gear. Proper tree care is complex and it can take up to two years before a person is adequately trained to work in trees. Call a licensed, insured firm that employs an I.S.A. Certified Arborist to perform your tree work.