During this last winter ice storm we just experienced in Chester County, many large and small trees were inflicted with severe damage and breakage from the weight of heavy coatings of ice. The question now becomes, can I save my trees that have suffered this ice damage?
There are two general rules that arborists use to determine if a tree can be saved. One is how much of the tree’s canopy was broken off? Typically, a tree can survive losing about 25% of its canopy at one time. If your tree has lost more than this, the tree will most likely not survive and should be removed. The second rule is if any branches larger than 50% of the trunk’s diameter have broken off, the tree will not survive and should be removed.
This type of tree damage caused by ice storms, and periods of heavy wind and rain can be prevented. The easiest way to strengthen the architecture of your tree is annual pruning by a trained arborist or horticulturalist. By regularly pruning a tree, one can essentially “train” a tree to grow in a way that will encourage strong branch unions and prevent breakage from happening. In the case of old large trees, cables can be installed to instantly add strength and hold large branches together. This should only be done by a certified arborist.
Dan Carl is a senior at Penn State, College of Agricultural Sciences, Landscape Contracting major.