by Janie Farler
It’s storm season in North Texas, and undoubtedly there will be wind/hail/lightning/flooding, frequently all at the same time. Particularly during wind or hail storms, many trees suffer damage ranging from slight to total destruction.
Unless the damage is obviously catastrophic, it is okay to wait and see if a tree will recover. If a major branch is broken, prune it back to the trunk and wait. Trees can overcome damage amazingly well in many cases. But meanwhile you have to decide what to do.
Be very aware of hazards such as hanging branches and overhead power lines. If huge branches are hanging and you need to climb the tree with a chain saw, professional help might be the smartest route.
How to Make the Big Decision
• Is the tree a potential hazard to people, property, or pets if it falls?
• If extensive pruning is necessary, will the tree still be attractive and of value to the property?
• Was the tree healthy before the storm?
• Is at least 50% of the crown (branches and leaves) intact? If not, the tree may not be able to produce enough leaves to feed itself.
• Is the central leader (dominant branch) lost? The tree might live but will never regain its full height or shape.
Dealing with the Damage:
• Don’t overprune; the tree needs all the foliage possible to feed itself after the stress of damage.
• Pruning paint is usually neither recommended nor necessary.
• If cutting a major branch, a 3-cut procedure is advised. First, about 6-12”out from the trunk, cut into the underside of the tree about 1/3 of the way through the branch. Then, about 2-3” beyond the first cut, cut the top side all the way through. Then remove the stub close to (but not flush with) the main trunk.
• If you don’t know how to prune properly, or if you need to climb the tree, you would be wise to call a certified arborist.
With a sharp knife, trim away all loose bark back to where the bark is intact. Do not dig deep; the cambium, the layer that supplies food and water to the tree, is underneath the bark, and you do not want to cause additional damage. If no more than 25% of the bark is torn, the tree will probably recover. Trim wound to elliptical shape if possible. If not possible, trim top and bottom to a point. A callous will form at the edges of the wound as the tree tries to repair itself.
If the trunk is split, it is sometimes possible to put it back together with cables and bolts, but this is definitely a job for a professional.
Lightning damage is sometimes visible as a long blackened crack from top to bottom of the trunk. It also may be internal and thus invisible, but the tree very well could recover. It is hard to tell immediately. Remove loose bark, cross your fingers, and wait.
If a large tree is uprooted, say goodbye to the tree and hello to lots of firewood. If it is a newer, smaller tree, however, it may be possible to save it if approximately 1/2 of the roots are still in the soil. It can be replanted and braced with guy wires and cables. This is also most likely a job for professionals.
If you need advice or help with pruning, don’t depend on the guy with the loppers who knocks on your door the next day. Call an ISA certified arborist. You can find one by going to isa-arbor.com.
For more details, check out the following articles:
Janie Farler is am member of the Denton County Master Gardener Association, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Denton County