Tree removal: to remove or not?

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Tree removal: to remove or not?

With the September 2014 snowfall that damaged thousands of Calgary trees, we have been getting many questions about when (and how) to save a tree versus when it should be removed. This is a very difficult decision for many people. With Calgary’s harsh growing conditions it takes many years to grow a good-sized tree.

Here is a basic set of questions that might help guide your decision

1. Does the tree in question have potential to fall and damage property or injure people?

  • High winds can easily topple an imbalanced or partly dead tree
  • Is the fall path of the tree likely to be over your home, garage, sidewalks or parking areas?
  • As much as we love our trees in Calgary, it is not worth risking someone getting hurt
  • The tree might be able to be saved with structural pruning and/or cable and bracing. Discuss this option with your certified arborist – you might avoid unnecessary tree removal

2. Has the top/leading central branch of the tree been destroyed? Does the tree have severe structural damage like deep cracks in the trunk / central branch?

  • We often recommend tree removal in both these situations
  • The central leader is what leads a tree’s growth. When it is broken trees will start growing mainly sideways instead of upwards. This lateral growth leads to a higher probability of branches breaking under their own weight. A destroyed central branch also will leave the tree susceptible to many diseases. It is likely this tree will die in the next couple of years
  • A crack in the central leader is never a good thing. This compromises the circulatory system of the tree. Again, it is likely this tree will die shortly

3. Is the tree heavily diseased?

  • A diseased tree is an eyesore and lowers property value
  • It is more susceptible to dropping branches in high winds and can damage property
  • If the tree has a small to medium infestation – call your certified arborist, there are many treatments that can stop almost any disease if caught early

4. Is the tree blocking light or nutrients from a more desirable specimen?

  • Time to let it go – The nearby tree will benefit greatly

5. Have the roots been cut recently?

  • We often get calls for troubleshooting a sick tree that are solved by answering this question
  • Many people in Calgary are buying inner city homes, removing the existing home, and building a newer house (with a new foundation)! The root ball of a tree usually extends the width of its branches so you can imagine this is sometimes ½ or ¾ of an inner city lot
  • Any cutting of the root ball has severe consequences for the life of a tree
  • If your tree is in this situation and appears to be dying, please consult with your certified arborist – they may be able to stimulate root growth with trunk injections and save it. If this fails, there is no other option than to request for a tree removal.

6. Has the area of the root ball recently been re-landscaped?

  • This is the other question that often solves an investigation on a dying tree
  • If the landscapers had little understanding of the tree biology, often the soil surrounding the root ball is heavily compacted by equipment
  • This creates a stagnant, waterlogged situation around the tree’s roots. A tree will often die from this within a few years
  • In order to save the tree, the soil needs to be loosened without damaging the tree roots
  • This is not an easy task and it might be better to remove the tree, break the soil up, and replant

We are always happy to give you a free consultation on your tree removal, if you are having trouble deciding if a tree should be removed or not. If you are very attached to a tree, there may be a way to save it. In other cases, it is best to let the compromised tree go and plant a new one.