Are you sleeping downstairs in fear of a tree coming through your house?  Do you feel like you are prey when you have asked a tree service for advice on how to deal with your urban or suburban forest?  Fear is a tool of salesmen that have no clue what they are talking about.  Often times trying to steer customers into a purchasing a light, irrelevant and overpriced wind thinning.  Often times these companies are removing important indicators as to the real health of your trees.  Epicormic shoots, deadwood, and overall vigor of the canopy, which are all effected by pruning, are all important in the context of determining the status and health of a large conifers root system.  That after all is where the problems with fir, hemlock, pine, and cedar trees begin.

tree service woodinvilleThe best thing that you can do for the hazard abatement of your forest other than hiring Heritage Tree Care is to preform a monthly observation and visual inspection of your trees yourself.  Things in your forest are always changing.  In the spring all trees begin to grow a new set of leaves or needles.  In the case of conifers these needles should be replacing needles from five to seven years ago that have fallen off during the previous year.  Often times the bulk of the needles will fall off in the later months of the year.  Foliage should be rich.  Fresh yellowish needles on a single tree amongst many rich green trees can be a symptom of other issues.  We are often looking for subtle differences like this to find symptoms of larger problems that may actually suggest fungal infections and wood rot disease.

You can also look for obvious changes in the lean of trees.  Timber trees like Fir, Cedar, and Hemlock will often take on a similar lean in a localized area or grove.  The trees on the outside of the grove will often lean outward for improved light.  Look for cracks in the main stems of trees that may be weeping sap.  Look for cracks on Hemlock trees that run vertically on the stem.  Hemlock trees are very prone to a  root disease called Hetrobasidion.  The damage is often spread from the root system upwards into the upper crown of the tree.  It slowly rots out the stem and often causes whole tree failure but can just as frequently cause failure up at twenty to eighty feet in an area that “goes bad”.  In this situation what you would often times notice will be a woodpecker hanging out for more than a few minutes in that section of the tree.  Woodpeckers are very important to notice if they are working in your forest.  They are natures sounding device and provide valuable insight into problems that cannot be fully detected without an areal inspection.  You can also look for small piles of chips around the base of trees that have been chipped out higher up the tree.

tree service KirklandFungus in the form of mushrooms around your trees are important indicators as well.  Most root diseases that eat at Hemlock and Fir have mushrooms in the fall that are associated with their microrhizall counterparts that decay the root system.  Look for conks around the base and within visual range and up the stem of Hemlocks.  They are generally white or grey on the bottom and dark brown on the top.  With fir trees look for turkey tail type mushrooms in the fall months.  Depending on the variety they are associated with two disasterous root diseases.  There are some other mushrooms that are often present with discoloration and thinning of the crown of firs that together indicate issues but are very hard to identify.

The crown is the part of the trees that really requires craning your neck to inspect but can usually be viewed more easily from you vehicle upon approaching your property.  This is an observation that is important to do of all trees in within striking distance of your valuable property for two reasons.  Obviously if your neighbors trees are diseased you would naturally be concerned of the damage that they can cause to your property.  More importantly it is important to know that root diseases spread across geographical areas in mycilial mats.  This means that these wood rot fungis’ spread easily around neighborhoods oftentimes decimating the most vulnerable trees that they come across. Vulnerability of this sort take a trained eye to establish.  Most noticeably you will see thinning of the upper crown of these tree.  It will look much thinner than its counterparts and will also have a slightly yellowish foliage.  In some cases you will notice sections of the trees that have an abundance of dead twigs around the outer edge of an otherwise healthy limb.  Sometimes large sections or groups of limbs will die out and look something like they were hit with a torch and made sort of crispy looking.  Sometimes you will notice several large limbs spread throughout the canopy dead and protruding out from the slowly receding profile of the healthy canopy.

You can also look for stumps in and around your property from past removals or wind fallen trees.  This has been a very valuable tool in diagnosing potential of wind throw.  I will always look for and inspect stumps that I come across.  If you have a couple stumps from a previous windstorm it provide a valuable look into the past.  And into the future.  Issues are generally similar in geographical areas over decades.  You are likely to see symptoms in association with the stumps that indicate issues that are in the process of developing.  In the case of Hetrobasidion, phellinis, and swanitzii it is very easy to establish connections from past disease related removal or failure to current health and vigor related issues.

These are all symptoms that you can see on your own.  It is hard to actually do the diagnosis yourself with any certainty but you will have good reason to reach out to us.  In an onsite assessment we can take everything in and see if there are any real concerns.  Depending on the symptom or more likely group of symptoms from your trees and neighboring trees we can more accurately establish the level of risk you might be facing and come up with some strategies for mitigating the risk.

Both removal and proper wind thinning are tools that we have to deal with root rot/ wood rot fungi.   A skilled assessment will give you some idea of the timelines that you are dealing with.  Coupled with the size of tree and proximity to structures you will have a good starting point and evidence from which to start implementing your plan.  To date there are no cost effective ways to treat well established wood rot fungi.  The most important part is to establish the amount of risk you may be facing.  Often times when removals are required we are simply just pre-empting natures plan in a timely and responsible fashion.

In closing remember that your monthly observations over a year are more valuable than any slick plans from a ten cent arborist that knocks at your door.  Look for aberrations to the healthiest looking parts of your neighborhoods forests, keep record of any unusual observations, and keep out number.