Magazine article American Forests

Tree Doctor Howard Burnett

Magazine article American Forests

Tree Doctor Howard Burnett

Article excerpt

Dear Tree Doctor: Lightning recently struck the maple tree in my yard. It blew the bark off about 25 percent of the base down to the roots. Other than the bark, the tree appears healthy and no branches were broken. Should something be done to the exposed part of the tree?

Larry Pedersen, Illinois

Clean off any loose bark, so that no water gets trapped, and any rain will drain away from the bottom of the wound. From there on, the tree will take care of itself. Research has shown that trees "wall off" injured areas, and thus prevent, or at least retard, any disease or insect attack at the wound site. Do not paint, tar, or otherwise seal the wound. This just keeps moisture in and encourages rot or insects. Keep the tree well watered, too. Time will tell if the lightning strike was fatal.


Dear Tree Doctor: We had some evergreen trees planted on a berm behind our home in early June. Neither the landscaper nor the developer watered the trees for over a month, and we had no rain. Some are completely brown and others have significant sections that are brown and look dead. The landscaper finally started watering after a month but by then they were severely drought-stricken. Can the trees be saved?

Kathy, via e-mail

The situation does not sound good. First, trees should be transplanted during their dormant season, and June is a long way from winter. Planting trees at this time is risky at best, but copious watering is called for and apparently that did not happen. Second, some berms are really loose soil, often not topsoil. That does not offer an ideal planting site. With continued heavy watering, some might pull some through. But if parts are dead now, the result will be misshapen evergreens. Responsible nursery contractors usually provide a year's guarantee on their outplantings, I suggest you find out if your landscaper follows this practice. If the trees have to be replanted, late November to March is the best season for that, so roots can get established before the following season. Watering for the first two or even three years should be scheduled, if possible.

Dear Tree Doctor: How much wind can a pecan tree tolerate?

Lisa Agnoll, via e-mail

Pecan, a member of the hickory family, has pretty tough wood, but most open-grown trees have a wide spreading crown, with long limbs that might be more subject to wind damage than shorter limbs. I have seen some pecan trees uprooted by hurricane-force winds, but it seems to take unusually high gales to tear away the root systems. …

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