Hort Q&A: What do do with damaged trees

Carla Smith, horticulture educator
Pottawatomie County Extension Service

What should I do about my damaged trees and shrubs? Rehabilitation or Removal?

Our office is getting calls daily about the winter damage we have received in our landscapes the last six months. And please, do call with those questions! Texas A and M had a really good article that the Tree Bank Foundation shared on Facebook this week. I shared it to our page: https://www.facebook.com/texasforestservice/photos/a.10150109293472176/10159963119732176/   The consensus of many experts across our region is to wait and see. It is very hard to do this for some. Before you fire up the chainsaws, give the trees some time. Fall is a great time to plant, so waiting now to evaluate and following up with fall re-planting would be best. Many are slow to leaf out, but we are starting to see progress. Many hollies, nandina, and others are beginning the road to re-leafing. The upper branches may appear dead, and some may be, but many left in place are beginning to grow from lateral buds along the branches.

Here are some good things to consider from our state consumer horticulture specialist, David Hillock:

The decision to save or remove a storm-damaged tree is usually a subjective one, with the choice relying more on opinion than fact. Emotions often are the overriding factor in the decision process, especially when the damaged tree is a very large, old or ‘heirloom’ tree. Here are a few points to keep in mind when deciding whether to rehabilitate or remove your storm-damaged tree:

• Use common sense and ask yourself if the damage has perhaps rendered this tree hazardous? In other words, does it now look vulnerable to any additional wind or ice event that could cause it to fall in its entirety or at least “drop” one or more large branches that could damage nearby property or prove fatal to people and pets?

• Educate yourself as to the potential growth rate and commercial availability of replacement trees.

• Even if the tree can be salvaged, assess whether it will ever look “right” again with some semblance of symmetry.

• If significant bark has been ripped or loosened from the trunk, be realistic about the tree’s potential for attack from opportunistic microorganisms and damaging insects outlined later.

Feel free to contact our office with questions or landscape photos. Our contact number is 405-273-7683 or email Carla at carlasm@okstate.edu.

Thank you to all who came out to support the Multi-County Master Gardeners Annual Plant Sale this past weekend!

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