Purdue Landscape Report: Trees provide many benefits for our homes and properties. If a tree is found to have a defect such as dead branches or broken limbs from a storm; it can become a risk issue. It is important to understand that tree owners have a duty to inspect and maintain their trees. All property owners should take reasonable steps to protect themselves by involving a qualified consultant or certified arborist when needed.
All trees have some sort of risk involved with it. They are living organisms that are endangered by environmental impacts and pests. However, it is important to create a balance between the risk a tree may pose and the benefits provided by the tree. We don’t want to remove trees unnecessarily, but rather reduce the liability by Identifying, analyzing and evaluating the problem.
Inspect regularly: Trees should be assessed through inspections by a qualified arborist, preferably an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist. It is especially important to inspect trees after major weather events. At a minimum, trees should be carefully checked out every 3-5 years.
Document and maintain records: Every inspection should be recorded and kept on file for future reference. Past evaluations can show how a tree has changed in its health and structure over the years. Also, these written evaluations could minimize liability if a failure occurs and a claim is filed against the tree owner.
Tree Inspections: For a tree to be considered a risk it must be defective and a target that is threatened.
A target is people, property or activities that could be injured, damaged or disrupted by a tree failure. Review everything in the target zone. This should include the area inside a circle around the tree, which is at least as wide as the total tree height.
Read the body language of the tree. Inspect each section of the tree including the crown, branches and root zone to check for signs of failure. These include:
Among the characteristics to consider when conducting tree risk evaluations are:
What do you do when a defect is found?
The goal is to reduce the likelihood of failure. Most of the time pruning can improve risk situations. Perhaps cabling and bracing may be an option. Also, plant health care improves the trees condition which can reduce risk… the last option should be removal and that should be an informed decision.
Recurrent inspections to determine tree health and condition are important for sustainable, long-lived tree plantings. The most important factor for any tree owner is know when to contact an ISA Certified Arborist who understands tree risk assessment. They can help with the decision making for the tree if there are concerns about its safety and health.
Find a certified arborist in your area by going to Trees are Good.
Planting Problems: Trees Planted Too Deep, Video, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources Youtube Channel
Planting Your Tree Part 1: Choosing Your Tree, Video, Purdue Extension Youtube Channel
Tree Planting Part 2: Planting a Tree, Video, Purdue Extension Youtube Channel
Tree Appraisal and the Value of Trees, The Educational Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Surface Root Syndrome, The Education Store
Iron Chlorosis of Trees and Shrubs, The Education Store
Tree Pruning Essentials, Publication & Video, The Education Store
Cold Injury to Trees, Got Nature? Post, Purdue FNR Extension
Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forest Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources