Trees and their branches fail for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the answer is clear, such as a lightning strike or damage caused by large construction equipment. However, if your trees fail out of nowhere with no seemingly visible reasons, you just need to look a little closer. Oftentimes the answer was staring at you the whole time you just didn’t know what to look for. So, today we will discuss a few main reasons why trees and their branches fail. If you start to see these issues please consult Primetime Pruning and we will aid you in a free tree assessment and consultation.
1) Fungi: If you see fungal rooting bodies (i.e. mushrooms) forming at the base or on the trunk of the tree, this could mean decay on the interior. If you see cracks, bulges, deep depressions in your tree then these are all signs of decay. A rule of thumb is if the decay reaches about 40% of the afflicted part of the tree (root collar, branch, trunk) the tree is at a high risk of failure and should absolutely be removed. However, not all decay is bad. There is a good chance that the hollow depression that is noticeable from your back window has healed and compartmentalized just fine. If there are no noticeable dead spots or die-off sections on the smaller lateral branches, then chances are your tree is just fine.
2) Cracks: When the load of the branch exceeds the capacity of the branch collar to bear its weight, you will see failure. This is why pruning the tips of primary spars/branches is so important. It greatly reduces the stress to the fibrous tissues that play a big role in structural stability.
3) Weak branch unions: When two branches or trunks grow together forming a co-dominant union, inevitably they will experience included bark. When you look at your tree, does the branch union form more of a “U” shape or is it more of a “V”? This is important because a “V” shaped union could spell disaster, especially on a large tree. “V” shaped unions form included bark; bark inclusion is bad because bark is meant to be shed. If the bark is included, it weakens the union and, in the right conditions or in a major wind storm, you will see/experience failure. I typically see these problems with autumn blaze maples.
4) Cankers: Cankers are spots on the tree where the cambium and bark have completely died. As the tree matures, these areas do not, and because of this the tree can become weakened and fail. This usually happens from an injury like a lawnmower or weed whacker hitting hit, construction equipment, or just about anything else that would cause a significant amount of scarring and damage.
If you notice any of these problems, it’s time to contact a professional tree trimming service.