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How dangerous is my palm tree?
April 20, 2009 1:33 PM   Subscribe

How dangerous is the palm tree in our backyard?

My neighbor and I have a palm tree in our backyard (technically my property, improperly fenced into his) that's about 35' tall and about 10 years old. It's around 15' away from my house and 20' from his. We think it's a Mexican Fan Palm.

He wants to cut it down as he thinks it's in danger of falling on one of our houses. I'm not so sure - it looks healthy and happy and provides great shade. We live in San Antonio, so the danger of a hurricane knocking it over is a bit remote.

How long do these trees remain stable and safe? Should we cut it down or not?
posted by cr_joe to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
 
Palms thrive in hurricane zones in large part because their root structure, their lack of branches, and their super-hard wood make them really hard to blow down.

Tens years old? It's a baby.

Still, it might be fun counting how many chainsaws your neighbour ruins trying to cut the thing down.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:51 PM on April 20, 2009


If he is that concerned about it, a couple of bucks for a licensed arborist's opinion would be in order.

You're not going to solve the dispute by standing there and looking at it, unless it happened to fall over while you were doing so.
posted by Aquaman at 1:55 PM on April 20, 2009


he thinks it's in danger of falling on one of our houses

Does he think this for a specific reason? (For example, is it leaning precariously?) Or does he just think it's dangerous because it happens to be 35 feet tall? They can grow up to 100 feet, so there's nothing inherently dangerous about its height alone.
posted by scody at 1:55 PM on April 20, 2009


If the tree is actually on your property (regardless of how the fencing runs), then he has no say in whether the tree can be removed or not. If he's worried about it falling, then he should get some home owner's insurance to guard against this type of "act of nature."

Now, if your property line is in dispute, you'll have to get the local township involved and have them survey to find the exact property line. Ugly, yes, but it may come to that if he pushes the issue.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 2:01 PM on April 20, 2009


It seems like there are factors beyond the normal lifespan of the species that might affect the answer to your question. What kind of soil is the tree rooted in? When was it transplanted, and how? Is it already leaning noticeably in any particular direction? Even if you do get some confident-sounding pronouncements here about the safety of the tree, is your concerned neighbor going to be persuaded by the news that some people on the internet think his back yard status quo is perfectly fine, based solely on the facts that it's about 10 years old, in San Antonio and you think it's a Mexican Fan Palm?

If it would be aesthetically acceptable to all parties, you might be able to appease your neighbor by using supports like these to prevent the tree from falling toward structures.
posted by contraption at 2:05 PM on April 20, 2009


If it's on your property, isn't it your tree? This seems like it's your decision to make.
posted by Pants! at 2:12 PM on April 20, 2009


Wow - thanks for the amazing help!

It's not leaning in any direction, and was planted as a sapling about 10 years ago (apparently - we only bought the house a couple of years ago). All the growth it's had has been in our own San Antonio rocky soil.

Looks like we're due to call a local arborist.
posted by cr_joe at 2:12 PM on April 20, 2009


One thing: Make sure it is on your land. Depending on how the law works where you live, squatter's rights might come into play, i.e. you may have unwittingly forfeited that land to your neighbor by not taking action on the fence.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:22 PM on April 20, 2009


An arborist is really the way to go. Most likely they can come out and give you an idea of the health of the tree and any maintenance it needs for free. Get two quotes. If you want this guy off your back and you want to keep the tree, pay to have any trimming or maintenance done and then tell him directly that you'd like to keep the tree. Oy, the fence issue sounds like trouble. I wouldn't bring it up if you don't have to. I have had a similare tete-a-tete with a neighbor regarding a tree and a fence and a property line. So far, we are in a cordial stalemate but I hope it never goes beyond that.
posted by amanda at 2:43 PM on April 20, 2009


If the tree is actually on your property (regardless of how the fencing runs), then he has no say in whether the tree can be removed or not. If he's worried about it falling, then he should get some home owner's insurance to guard against this type of "act of nature."

If it's on your property, isn't it your tree? This seems like it's your decision to make.

These answers don't take into account the fact that if the tree were to fall onto your neighbor's house and he were able to prove that you knew it was a danger and did nothing to prevent it then either your homeowner's insurance or you would have to pay for any damage done. For example, if the tree were dead then you might be on the hook if you didn't remove it. Similarly, if it were leaning over his home he could insist that you remove it.

If you can prove that it doesn't pose any reasonable danger then you're golden.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 5:23 PM on April 20, 2009


If it helps any... When I lived in San Diego I had a Mexican Fan Palm in my back yard that was much larger than that, and it was fine, perfectly stable. I'm not good at estimating height, but it was easily twice the height of a two-story house.

Your situation may vary depending on your specific conditions. For example, I actually grew up in San Antonio in a house on a hill near Ingram Park Mall. The bedrock there was just a foot or two below ground. Other parts of town were quite different, as you know.

I think it makes sense to bring in an arborist or tree service. At the minimum, you should have old dry fronds trimmed and removed from below the crown of the tree.

As for hurricanes... Shucks. I live near Houston now, and I'd come and visit -you- if I had to evacuate! You may have a few big storms now and then, but unless you get a tornado nothing's going to blow that sucker down. And if that happens, you'll have a lot more to worry about.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:49 PM on April 20, 2009


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