Publication helps homeowners identify, repair tree damage

July 1, 2013  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Wave after wave of summer storms have battered trees in Indiana and other Midwest states. The extent of damage done to branches and trunks will determine whether the tree can heal on its own, a homeowner can make repairs themselves or if a professional arborist needs to be brought in, says Purdue Extension's urban forestry specialist.

"Oftentimes nothing needs to be done at all and the tree will repair the damage on its own," Lindsey Purcell said. "I think we tend to overreact and believe the tree should be cut down, when what you really want to do is try to save the tree and reduce the risk of failure, which could hurt someone or damage something."

Purcell describes common types of warm- and cold-weather storm damage and treatment options in Trees and Storms, a new Purdue Extension publication. The publication, FNR-FAQ-12-W, can be downloaded free at

Most minor tree damage can be left alone unless it poses a danger or risk to people, Purcell said. Repairing more extensive damage depends on the size and extent of the tree injury, he said.

About 80 percent of the damage caused by storms is to branches, Purcell said.

"I tell most homeowners if you can't make simple repairs to damage from the ground then you need to call a professional," he said. "When you start talking about ladders and long reaches, that's when safety becomes an issue to the homeowner. Professional arborists know how to make those repairs safely. You don't want to make a bad situation worse by trying to do something you're not capable of doing."

In Trees and Storms, words and pictures are used to explain and illustrate five common types of damage:

* Wind throw - Trees are pushed over by high winds.

* Stem failure - Weakened trunks break.

* Crown twist - Trunks suffer cracks and splits.

* Root failure - Trees lean, exposing roots.

* Branch failure - Limbs break and hang.

Other sections cover proper tree planting and pruning practices for reducing storm damage potential, methods for assessing damage risks, steps to take after a storm and hiring a certified arborist.

"By contacting a certified arborist you're getting someone with a recognized knowledge base that is consistent around the world," Purcell said. "It doesn't necessarily mean you'll have to spend more money than you would on other tree professionals. It just means they've been through a certification program to demonstrate competency on mitigating storm damage."

If in doubt, hire a professional to do the job, Purcell said.

"I've seen too many people get hurt trying to do things themselves to save a few bucks."

Writer: Steve Leer, 765-494-8415,

Source: Lindsey Purcell, 765-494-3625,

Related website:

Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson,
Agriculture News Page

Faculty-Staff News

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