Tree maintenance?
October 20, 2009 7:05 PM   Subscribe

The trees at my house lost a dozen or so large branches in the earliest snow on record in central PA. Do all of the branches falling signify a problem with the trees? Do I need to do anything to help the trees recover?

Because the leaves had not fallen yet, this was a common problem in the area. This has left a number of places where the branch remaining on the tree is ragged and split. Is this a problem? Do I need to do something about it?

If it matters, there are several types of trees in the yard, but the problem is with the sugar maples, which are abut 70 feet tall and 30 years old. A picture can be seen here.

More generally, do I need to do anything for my trees? Mostly I just rake their leaves in the fall and enjoy their shade in the summer. Is there anything I can do to make them more healthy? Or to protect the house?
posted by cjemmott to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This has left a number of places where the branch remaining on the tree is ragged and split. Is this a problem?

Depending on tree and climate, this can contribute to rot. Get a local arborist to quote you for a trim.
posted by flabdablet at 7:19 PM on October 20, 2009

IANYA but a tree that mature should be okay. But looking at your photo I will go out on a limb and say this: at least two, if not all three, of those trees are too close to your building.
posted by Dick Paris at 7:47 PM on October 20, 2009

I'd ask an arborist to look at your property and make some recommendations. They can clean up the tree damage and tell you about the health of your trees. I had a similar reaction to your photo; those trees look too close to your house. Aside from the possibility of limbs falling on your roof, you have the added problem of roots which could put pressure on your foundation and pipe lines. Not to mention the leaves-in-gutters problems.

As to your question - it doesn't sound good that a healthy sugar maple tree lost 'a dozen or so large branches' to an early snow just because they had leaves on them. These limbs were definitely not dead and they just snapped off from the weight of snow? Maybe the tree needed pruning. Jagged limbs are not good for the health of the tree. Get a tree company to offer an opinion.
posted by birdwatcher at 3:21 AM on October 21, 2009

In general, there's a difference as to whether the limbs broke somewhere out on their extremities, or ripped off at the base where they attach to the trunk. There is more potential for decay when they tear at the trunk, but trees are adapted to try and compartmentalize these wounds. Individual trees, even individuals of the same species, have differing abilities in responding to wounds; it depends on genetics and site-specific adaptations or influences. I do believe that the two trees on the right in the photo look like silver maples rather than sugar maples, but it's hard to tell. The one on the left looks like a different genus (like Gleditsia?).
But yes, you should have a good arborist look at them at some point soon, they can give you a better idea of what you're dealing with. While I don't agree that they are necessarily too close to your house, they're close enough that they require monitoring and maintenance.
posted by Red Loop at 3:53 AM on October 21, 2009

Seconding the arborist, but I am not sure I agree with the notion that the trees needed pruning or that they were not healthy beforehand. An early snow can be quite destructive.

A few years ago, not even halfway through October, we were hit with a freak snowstorm with all the leaves still on the trees, and absolutely every street was littered with branches for weeks afterward. There are still trees around the city that need to come down.

Also, here is an article from the Arbor Day Foundation that can help you figure out what to do with your trees. Good luck!
posted by Jinkeez at 5:24 AM on October 21, 2009

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