First Aid Procedures
For Damaged Trees
he trail of damage after a
major storm truly reveals
the power of Mother Nature,
and the remains can be dev-
astating, especially for trees.
Unprotected, trees are vulnerable
to any storm and the wounds might
look fatal. However, even though
major branches may be broken, foli-
age might be shredded, or the bark
may be torn and gouged, trees have
an amazing ability to recover from
even the most severe cases.
First aid for damaged trees after a
major storm can help trees recover,
says the International Society of
Arboriculture (ISA). Follow a few
simple tree first-aid procedures
immediately after a major storm:
• Do not try to do it all yourself. If
large limbs are broken or hanging,
or if ladder or overhead chain-saw
work is needed, it is a job for a pro-
• Take safety precautions. Look
up and look down. Be on the alert
and stay away from downed util-
ity lines and dangerous hanging
branches that look like they are
ready to fall.
• Assess the damage. Evaluate
your trees carefully by asking the
following questions: Other than the
storm damage, is the tree basi-
cally healthy and vigorous? Are
major limbs or the leader (the main
upward-trending branch on most
trees) still remaining?
Is at least 50 percent of the tree's
crown (branches and leaves) still
intact? Are there remaining branch-
es that can form a new branch
If you answered "yes" to the
majority of these questions, there
is a good chance for complete
recovery. For assistance, hire an ISA
Certified Arborist to determine the
• Remove any broken branches
or stubs still attached to the tree.
Removing the jagged remains of
smaller-sized broken limbs to mini-
mize the risk of decay agents enter-
ing the wound. Smaller branches
should be pruned at the point where
they join larger ones.
Follow the pruning guidelines
shown here for proper cuts to help
the tree to recover faster. Making
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the cut illus-
trated with a
handsaw is fine
— with a chain
saw it could
create a hazard.
For larger branches that are bro-
ken, a professional arborist who
has the necessary equipment and
knowledge needed to do the job
safely should cut the branch back to
the trunk or a main limb.
• Resist the urge to over-prune (no
longer recommended). Do not worry
if the tree's appearance is not per-
fect. With branches gone, your trees
may look unbalanced or naked. You
will be surprised at how fast they will
recover, grow new foliage, and return
to their natural beauty.
• Do not top your trees! Untrained
individuals may urge you to cut
back all of the branches on the mis-
taken assumption that it will help
avoid breakage in future storms.
However, professional arborists
say that "topping" — the cutting of
main branches back to stubs — is
extremely harmful and unhealthy
for your trees. Stubs will often
grow back many weakly-attached
branches that are higher and are
more likely to break when a storm
Topping also will reduce the
amount of foliage, on which the
tree depends for the food and
nourishment needed for re-growth.
A topped tree that has already sus-
tained major storm damage is more
likely to die than repair itself.
A qualified tree care professional
can assist you with the damage and
perform the job safely. To find an
ISA Certified Arborist and for more
information on storm-recovery tree
care, visit www.treesaregood.org or
contact ISA at (800) ISA-Tree.
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January 15 • 2009