Trees are no match for mother nature’s wind

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Winds were erratic throughout the day. In some places, they were like a breeze. In other areas they were so strong they knocked down trees as if they were toothpicks. In some cases, they dropped on top of homes. In others, they damaged sidewalks as the roots of large trees pulled out of the ground.
One big one landed on a freeway! A big eucalyptus landed on the 405 in the Irvine area causing a backup in traffic for awhile.

High winds made the drive on the 215 tension-filled for high profile vehicles drivers. The wind was so strong at one point it pushed an 18-wheeler over like a tinker toy in the Devore area.

Michael Green is an arborist. We looked at video after video of fallen trees and, for the most part, he felt the recent rains and the high winds were a fatal combination for some trees.

Said Green, “The heavy rains do play a role in that”… rain saturates the ground… loosens the soil.. and with winds “trees will topple over.”

So you can imagine how Keith Harvey felt when he saw that happen on top of his house! The one in Rancho Cucamonga. Harvey told us, “I was like, get our grandson. Get him up and get him out of there. When I got here just seeing a big old tree on the house I’m like … okay… wow!”

Michael Green says you may not have a “wow” moment if you maintain large trees around your home. He says, get them inspected from time to time,  “and pruned because…. with pruning the can reduce the weight of a tree if its too large you can do some pruning to mitigate it.”


Amid California drought, fears rise of trees dying, falling

APTOPIX California Drought Trees

TreePeople volunteers water a tree at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center Martinez Arena in Griffith Park, Friday, July 31, 2015, in Los Angeles. As Californians and the communities they live in cut back water usage and let lawns go golden, arborists and state officials are worrying about a potentially dangerous ripple effect. Nearby trees are going neglected and becoming diseased or dying. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — As Californians and the communities they live in cut back water use and let lawns turn brown, arborists and state officials are worrying about a potentially dangerous ripple effect: City trees going neglected and becoming diseased or even falling.

With cities ordered to reduce water use by 25 percent during the state’s four-year drought, many residents are turning off sprinklers — not realizing that trees can be permanently damaged by a sudden reduction in the amount of water they receive.

“You don’t want to be cutting back the water to the trees,” said Ruben Green, an arborist with Evergreen Arborist Consultants in Los Angeles. “The tree can’t adjust.”

Across the state, 12 million trees died over the past year due to lack of water, according to the U.S. Forest Service. While the bulk of those deaths occurred outside urban areas, conservationists and officials are now focusing on cities, where mandated water reductions are becoming visible in drying limbs and scorched leaves.

Fears that parched trees could pose a danger were heightened this week when a 75-year-old, 75-foot-tall pine tree fell on a group of kids from a camp at a Southern California children’s museum, leaving a boy and girl hospitalized with serious injuries. An independent arborist and another from the city of Pasadena are conducting an investigation into the cause, which has not been determined to be drought-related.

Green visited the site of Tuesday’s tree collapse and said it appeared unlikely the drought was to blame because the area around the tree looked well irrigated and its root system appeared compromised — a sign of rot, decay or injury, not necessarily the drought.

Still, the collapse highlighted concerns about the health of urban trees. Los Angeles alone has more than 25 square miles of parks and some 327,000 trees.

Green and other arborists said they have seen an increase in the number of diseased trees in the city. As they get less water, they become more prone to illness caused by pests. In addition to bark beetles, Green has seen a newer pest drilling tunnels in the trunks of “dozens and dozens of trees.”

Arborists say the number of falling trees and limbs does not appear to have risen in Los Angeles, but there are concerns that could be next. They also are worried that if a strong El Nino brings a wet California winter, already distressed trees will collapse when a storm hits.

“We’re really right on the brink of starting to face more serious issues,” said Cindy Blain, executive director of California ReLeaf, a nonprofit network of urban and community foresting groups around the state. “This is a critical time.”

A new six-person crew removes potentially hazardous trees from Los Angeles parks. So far this year, it has moved out 550 trees — surpassing the 300 removed in an average year.

“They are starting to fail due to the drought, and we want to make sure these trees don’t potentially pose a hazard to the public,” said Laura Baurenfeind, principal forester with the city parks department.

Turf areas in city parks are being watered three times a week, down from at least five when drought regulations were not in place. To help nearby trees compensate, the city and nonprofits are installing makeshift basins to filter water to trees.

Meanwhile, a public education campaign is underway. California ReLeaf has partnered with Save Our Water, a coalition of the California Department of Water Resources and Association of California Water Agencies, to better inform residents about proper tree care during the drought.

Blain said many of the people she’s spoken with say they have forgotten about their trees or gotten worried and began watering at the tree’s base. Trees should be watered from the edge of their canopy.

If a tree goes too long without enough water, it will become unable to soak up liquid at all.

Like many Californians, Bruce Birkett has reduced lawn watering at his childhood home in Los Angeles in response to the drought. Recently, though, he’s watched in grief as the giant cedar in the front yard became brittle and brown.

“That was hard,” he said, “watching this lovely tree looking poor.”

camp tawonga sign

Pacific Gas & Electric Found Nothing Wrong With Deadly Tree

Yosemite National Park—This past summer, a 21-year-old lost her life and four adults were treated at hospitals after a tree fell at Camp Towanga near Yosemite National Park.  Pacific Gas & Electric Co. had recently inspected the tree in question and apparently found nothing wrong with the oak.  PG&E were required to inspect due to the presence of nearby power lines.  Tuolumne County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Oliver called the incident a “freak accident.”

Annais Rittenberg, 21, was in her second year as a camp counselor for Camp Towanga, a Jewish camp in Yosemite, when the tree fell on a campfire circle of which she was a part.  Fortunately, no children were injured, but Rittenberg lost her life and four other adults were hurt, two of whom had to be hospitalized. Read more

Care of California’s Native Oaks

Big tree

A big tree

Young native oak trees are much more tolerant and adaptable to environmental changes, while mature, established oaks are intolerant of change. This means that any major change in a mature oak’s environment may weaken the tree or kill it. To reduce the chance of this happening, leave the tree’s RPZ, or root protection zone, undisturbed. The RPZ is defined as one and a half times the area from trunk to drip line. A healthy root system for a mature oak begins with the formation of a tap root when the tree is a seedling. This allows the tree to have assessable moisture. As the tree grows, lateral roots extend horizontally (sometimes up to 90 ft.) past the dripline. This root system also forms fine roots typically within the top three feet of the soil, and these roots absorb moisture and nutrients. To support the natural dry weather conditions in the summer, the tree also grows deep vertical roots, usually within ten feet of the trunk, which helps support the mature tree. Therefore, mature oaks need protection from excessive water, inadequate drainage, over fertilizing, filling, paving, over pruning, and trenching within the root zone.

Excessive water and inadequate drainage can smother roots and encourages crown and root rot fungi. Conditions should be dry during summer months, therefore only drought-tolerant plants that require no summer watering should be planted around mature oaks. Even then, plants should be planted no closer than six feet from the base of the tree. Groundcovers such as cobbles, gravel, and wood chips can also be used because they don’t interfere with getting the right amount of moisture and oxygen. Usually, mature oaks don’t require any irrigation, except in cases where there is an impervious surface within the RPZ. If this is the case, occasional watering may be helpful – as an extension of the normal wet season. Otherwise, oaks should be watered only outside the RPZ. Moist, warm soil at the base of the tree encourages crown and root rot. If a tree needs to be watered, water only once or twice during the summer with a slow, all-day soaking. Shallow watering promotes shallow root growth and also encourages crown and root rot. Rot and root drowning may also be caused by placing a swimming pool, which acts as a dam, downhill from a mature tree.

Mature oak trees usually need no supplemental fertilization, because they get nutrients from the leaf litter that breaks down around the tree. If fertilizing is to be done, it should be done in late winter or early spring. Trees that have undergone recent severe pruning should not be fertilized. Sometimes when leaves yellow, it is not a sign of nutrient lack, but rather a sign of crown or root rot.

Trees that have fill or paving placed with the RPZ are more likely to have problems with soil compaction, which prevents water from soaking into the soil and inhibits gases from being exchanged between roots, soil, and atmosphere. Fill can also trap moisture in the soil and cause crown and root rot. Paving also usually requires excavation to create a stable base for the paving material. Both excavation and the compaction adversely affect the root system. If any paving is needed, decking on piers is the least intrusive to the oak’s root system. It’s also best to leave the natural soil grade within the RPZ and, if necessary, use retaining walls to keep soil out of the RPZ.

Another aspect of oak care is pruning. Excessive pruning affects an oak tree in a number of ways, from exposing interior branches to sun damage, encouraging new growth that is more easily attacked by mildew, and possibly causing decline in the health of the tree. Pruning should be done during winter dormant periods and only weak, diseased, or dangerous branches should be removed. Any wounds should not be sealed, as recent research shows sealants do more harm than good. It is recommended that pruning should only be performed by a certified arborist.

Oak trees also need protection from trenching within the RPZ. Trenching can sever important tree roots when underground utilities are installed. Especially detrimental is when multiple trenches are cut through the roots. If utilities are installed within the RPZ, they should be dug by hand or they should be bored at least three feet below the surface.

Oak tree care also includes being aware of diseases and insects, which can impact the health of the tree. The tree can usually be saved if the disease is caught early. Crown rot is caused by a microscopic fungus and is promoted by saturated soils and poor soil aeration. Symptoms of crown rot are decline in tree vigor, twig die-back and wilting, lesions that ooze a dark-colored fluid, and abnormally yellow leaves. Oak root fungus, or Armillaria root rot, is almost always found in California oak trees, but doesn’t usually affect the tree unless the tree is over watered or weakened in some way. Trees affected by root rot can have branch die-back or yellowing and thinning of foliage. To avoid these symptoms, avoid summer irrigation. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that can harm oak trees, usually be causing structural weaknesses and branch breakage. Major infestations are difficult to control and it’s best to consult an arborist for advice on mistletoe or any unexplained decline in an oak tree. Insects can also harm oak trees; especially pit scales, oak moths, and other leaf eaters. These insects weaken the tree and make it susceptible to disease. Consult an arborist when insect infestation causes a change in leaf color, twig die-back, substantial leaf loss, or sticky or sooty foliage and branches.

If all of these issues are addressed in an oak tree’s care, the oak should be healthy and last a considerable amount of time.

Beverly Hills Arborist

Trees on the street

Trees on the street

The Beverly Hills Recreation and Parks Commission met in 2010 to discuss, among other things, the removal of 16 ficus trees on Angelo Drive. These trees were chosen for removal due to sidewalk uplift from the roots of these trees. The commission estimates that it will cost $19,800 to replace these trees and the replacements will be either crape myrtles or fern pines.