The Phoenix, Arizona, area is home to a wide variety of trees. Some, like palm trees, can grow very tall, while others, like mesquite, branch out wide. Homeowners value their trees for their shade and the beauty they add to the landscape.
While snowbirds think of Arizona as a warm retreat from cold northern winters, year-round residents know that Arizona is prone to extreme weather, from monsoons to cold snaps that may even include snowfall.
Native Arizona trees have grown accustomed to the climate, but all trees have a natural lifespan. Storm damage, drought, soil depletion, and disease can all hasten the demise of a formerly healthy tree. Stressed trees are dangerous: they drop boughs or topple over entirely, causing property damage, severe injury, or even death. Learn eight ways to tell if a tree is at risk of falling so you can call for preventative maintenance before tragedy strikes.
Take a Good Look Around
The first step to determine whether a tree is at risk of falling is to take a good look at your trees, both close up and, for tall trees, through binoculars, to check on the tree’s condition. Make notes of anything you observe that concerns you, from browning leaves to broken branches, so you’ll be ready to discuss your concerns with an arborist.
Many things that may look like problems could be a tree going through its natural life cycle. But the only way to know for sure is to consult a professional who can comprehensively assess your trees’ health and recommend continuing care options.
Here are eight things to look for that may indicate your tree is at risk of falling:
Mushrooms Around the Base
There’s a fungus among us! While you can’t see fungal infections affecting subterranean tree roots, mushrooms growing around the tree’s base may indicate that your tree’s roots are rotting. Rotten roots can’t hang on to the soil like healthy roots and create a danger that the tree may fall. If you notice mushrooms at the base of your tree, call a certified arborist for an assessment.
Dead Branches or Leaves Falling Close to the Trunk
Dying branches are, in many cases, just a tree doing what it must do to survive: cutting out the weaker stems and sending scarce nutrients and water to the healthier ones. Dead branches will fall, creating a potential hazard.
But when an otherwise healthy-looking tree develops dead branches, it shows that it is in distress. The tree will try to survive by shedding branches. When large branches fall, in addition to creating a risk of property damage or injury, the sudden change in the shape of the tree can alter the way wind affects the tree, creating a greater chance of wind damage and even toppling.
Deciduous trees that drop their leaves every year should lose their leaves from the outside in, not the inside out. If you notice a tree that seems to be losing leaves close to its trunk, or the leaves closer to the trunk appear brown or dried up, this could indicate a circulatory problem: the tree isn’t delivering nutrients to the branches. The leaves on the outer edges of the branches will soon begin to die as well. Call an arborist as soon as you notice the inside-out pattern of leaf loss.
Large patches of missing bark on a tree trunk may indicate that the tree is dying, either from natural aging or due to an infection or insect infestation. When cracks and missing bark weaken the trunk, it may not be able to support the tree, and the tree is in danger of falling.
Heaving soil at the base, or roots protruding from the soil, is a warning sign that a tree could topple over. The roots may get exposed due to erosion or because the tree has become unstable, and the roots are starting to pull away from the soil. Get this checked out by an arborist as soon as possible.
Vines covering the area at the base of the tree, and climbing up the trunk, can sap the tree and its roots of sunlight, trap moisture leading to rot, and encourage insects to take up residence. Left untreated, the vines will slowly take over and consume your tree, weakening it to the point of instability.
Carpenter ants chew through rotted wood. If you see what looks like sawdust around your tree, and the tree has holes or channels in it, these ants may have taken up residence. This means the tree has rotted enough for the ants to chew through it to create their nests and lay their eggs. Rot is a significant warning sign that a tree is in trouble and may fall.
Improper pruning can lead to a tree developing hollow spots. While the tree can heal this type of wound, many open places will just grow more prominent, endangering limbs or even the entire tree. Hollow places are also an invitation for pests and wild animals to nest.
V-Shaped or Forked Trunks
When a tree has a V-shaped, dual trunk, called a “co-dominant” trunk, the area that forms the “V” is inherently weaker and can grow more so over time. When a tree has grown very large with this type of trunk, a professional tree service may be able to strengthen the tree with cabling. Cutting off just one side may leave too large a wound for the tree to stay healthy, so the only other option may be to remove the tree altogether.
Avoid Tree Problems
Preventative tree maintenance services from a certified arborist are the best way to avoid dangerous tree problems. Pruning and trimming trees while they’re still young enough to be correctly shaped and directed will help trees avoid developing dangerous or weak co-dominant trunks. Removing unhealthy branches, fertilizing, and removing vines that threaten to devour a tree are all steps that a certified arborist tree service can take to help you preserve and protect your trees.