Last week, one person was killed while five others were injured when a popular eucalyptus tree unexpectedly fell onto a wedding party in Whittier, California. People who witnessed the tragedy claim that the group was innocently taking pictures beneath the tree when it suddenly uprooted and fell, transforming what began as a celebration into a scene of tragedy.
In an effort to prevent tragedies like this from happening, the certified arborists at Mountain West Arbor Care would like to take the time to provide you with a list of things to watch out for that may indicate a hazardous tree.
Wood decays when it is colonized by fungi. External indicators of decay to watch out for are mushrooms or other fungus. Cracks, bulges, hollow holes and other cavities are also indications of decay. If a tree is 40% afflicted by decay it is at a high risk of failure. If you suspect your tree is decaying you should consult a certified arborist to conduct an internal and external investigation of the tree to determine whether or not it is a safety hazard.
Cracks can develop when the load of a tree exceeds the trunk or branch’s load-bearing capacity. Keep in mind that cracks tend to develop along improperly-healed wounds, at weak branch unions or at flush-cut pruning scars. Among the most common are vertical cracks along the wood grain. A tree is at high risk of failure if a vertical crack goes through the entire tree. If you discover a vertical crack you need to consult with a certified arborist. Horizontal cracks on the other hand are also signs of a hazardous tree. Although rare, horizontal cracks are a good indication of the tree falling in the near future.
One of the major causes of tree failure is root damage. Unfortunately though, most root problems are hard to detect. When a tree’s root system has been extensively damaged, the tree can become an unwanted safety hazard. However, there are some things you can look out for. For example, roots that wrap around the base of a tree can be problematic. Girdling roots can choke a tree as both the tree and the roots expand with age. This in turn, will cause the entire tree to eventually fail. Other root problems include excavation, soil compaction, trenching, paving, environmental stress and fungal decay. That’s why it’s important to hire a certified arborist if you detect root damage so they can provide you with a thorough inspection.
Symptoms of root damage include:
- Visibly dead roots
- Visible broken roots
- A decline in the tree canopy
- An increased lean in the tree
- Soil heaving round the base of a tree
- Mushrooms and other fungi
Leaning or lopsided trees naturally present more of a hazard than those that grow vertically. While it’s not uncommon for a tree to grow off center, any sudden lean may indicate breakage or a weakening of supporting roots. It’s important to understand that a sudden lean should be a cause for alarm and immediate action. Remember to check your trees often and contact a certified arborist is a tree on your property is suddenly leaning or if you spot anything that just doesn’t seem right.
Spots on a tree where the cambium and bark are dead are called cankers. As a tree grows the area around the canker will not grow with it. Cankers can weaken a tree and cause it to fail as less wood is available to support the weight of a growing tree.
Cankers are often the result of:
- Fungal infections
- Lighting strikes
- Lawn mowers
Keep in mind that cankers are especially dangerous when coupled with decay or if a canker covers more than 40% of a tree.
Contact a Certified Arborist
When it comes to the safety of you and your loved ones, it’s important to monitor the health and safety of the trees on your property. If you suspect that you have a hazardous tree, it’s important to call a certified arborist to have it inspected. While the chance of it falling is minimal, it can fail. At Mountain West Arbor Care, our certified arborist work hard to make sure the trees on your property are healthy, well-maintained and as safe as possible. Our condolences go out to the family affected by last week’s tragedy, and we hope the information provided here will help people spot hazardous trees as well as prevent any tree-related accidents.