If Your Trees Are Unhappy call the Tree Doctor or an Arborist
Tree Service Specialists
An arborist (or tree surgeon) is a professional who manages and maintains trees. This can include planting, pruning, structural support, the treatment of disease, insect, or abiotic disorders, lightning protection, and tree removal. It can also include planning, consulting, report writing and even legal testimony. Trees provide many benefits to the landscape and to people, but they are also very large, heavy, and complex organisms. They require monitoring and care to ensure survival and safety in the human landscape. Arborists can also assess trees to determine the health, structure, safety or feasibility within a landscape and in proximity to humans. Modern arboriculture has progressed a great deal in technology and sophistication from practices of the past, and more of the practices are based on knowledge gained through recent research.
In this, it needs to be distinguished from forestry, which is the commercial production and use of timber and other forest products from plantations and forests. Arboriculture can be considered to have a similar relationship to forestry as gardening has to agriculture.
Trees may require pruning to keep them away from wires, fences and buildings, to improve long-term health and/or structure, for aesthetic reasons, and to permit people to walk and sit under them. They might also require other care to improve their chances of survival and longevity, or treatments in response to damage from biotic or abiotic factors.
Trees in urban landscape settings are often subject to human disturbances above and below ground, as well as natural disturbances. Timing or methods for treatment depend on the species of tree and the purpose of the work. A thorough knowledge of local species and environments is necessary to determine the best practices.
Do’s and Especially Don’ts
There can be a vast difference in the techniques and practices of professional arborists and those who simply ‘trim trees’. Many common practices of tree workers are considered unacceptable by modern arboriculture standards. One common abuse of trees is a practice called topping, lopping, or hatracking, in which the outer part of the crown or the entire top of the tree is cut off. This has several detrimental effects. When all of the foliage is removed, the tree is left without the ability to produce food through photosynthesis. It must use stored energy to produce a flush of new growth to replace what was removed. The large internodal cuts are much more prone to decay than proper pruning cuts, and the subsequent abundance of sprouts arise around this area of decay, as well as usually being poorly attached, overcrowded, and weaker due to rapid growth.
Pruning should only be done with a specific purpose in mind. Every cut is a wound, and every leaf lost is removal of some amount of photosynthetic ability. Proper pruning can be very helpful in many ways, but should always be done with the minimum amount of live tissue removed for the individual situation.
In recent years, research has proven that wound dressings such as paint, tar or other coverings are unnecessary and may be harmful to the tree. The coverings may actually encourage the growth of decay-causing fungi. Proper pruning, by cutting the branches at the right location, can do more to limit decay than wound dressing.
Chemicals can be applied to trees for insect or disease control either through spraying (though this can become impossible with very large trees), soil application, or stem injections when necessary. Compacted or disturbed soils can be improved in various ways.
The International Society of Arboriculture, a non-profit organization, maintains a list of ISA Certified Arborists who have passed a written exam and demonstrated a basic level of knowledge in arboriculture. There are also additional classifications of certified arborists with Certified Arborist/Utility Specialist and Certified Arborist/Municipal Specialist. Other certifications exist for Certified Tree Workers, and the highest level of certification, the Board Certified Master Arborist.
Most countries have their own arborist societies as well. Membership is usually exclusive to those with either a certain level of industry experience, plus higher educational experience or continuing education; some members may achieve a higher status by fulfilling the requirements to become a registered consulting arborist. Consulting arborists generally specialize in the areas of ethics, law, land planning and development, and tree valuation, among others. Consulting arborists are often called on for legal testimony and report writing for various instances where a particular authority on trees is necessary for consequent actions.
Depending on legal jurisdiction, there are a number of legal issues surrounding the practices of arborists and of urban tree management in general, including:
Ownership of trees on or near boundaries – neighbours may have legal rights regarding trees which adjoin or overhang their property.
“Right to light” – some jurisdictions grant property owners rights to enjoy a “reasonable” amount of sunlight, and neighbouring trees which deny this may be subject to trimming or felling as a consequence.
Structural impact – the growth of tree roots (or their removal) may affect the stability of nearby walls or building foundations. Equally, unstable, diseased or dead trees may fall, causing structural damage or personal injury.
Control of disease – in an attempt to control epidemics of tree diseases or agricultural pests, some jurisdictions may require property owners to ensure their trees are healthy and that rot and disease issues are addressed.
Conservation – in many locations, certain trees are protected (often on a basis of species or size), requiring a specific permission be obtained before they are felled or radically trimmed.
Safety – property owners are generally liable for injuries arising from unsafe trees or tree branches, and may also be liable for the safety of arborists working on their trees.
What Your Tree Worker Can Do
An arborist can determine the type of pruning necessary to maintain or improve the health, appearance, and safety of trees. These techniques include
eliminating branches that rub each other
removing limbs that interfere with wires, building facades, gutters, roofs, chimneys, or windows, or that obstruct streets or sidewalks
removing dead or weak limbs that pose a hazard or may lead to decay
removing diseased or insect-infested limbs
creating better structure to lessen wind resistance and reduce the potential for storm damage
training young trees
removing limbs damaged by adverse weather conditions
removing branches, or thinning, to increase light penetration
improving the shape or silhouette of the tree
Although tree removal is a last resort, there are circumstances when it is necessary. An arborist can help decide whether a tree should be removed. Arborists have the skills and equipment to safely and efficiently remove trees. Removal is recommended when the tree
is dead or dying
is considered irreparably hazardous
is causing an obstruction that is impossible to correct through pruning
is crowding and causing harm to other trees
is to be replaced by a more suitable specimen
is located in an area where new construction requires removal
Emergency Tree Care
Storms may cause limbs or entire trees to fall, often landing on other trees, homes and other structures, or cars. The weight of storm-damaged trees is great, and they can be dangerous to remove or trim. An arborist can assist in performing the job in a safe manner, while reducing further risk of damage to property.
Some arborists plant trees, and most can recommend types of trees that are appropriate for a specific location. The wrong tree in the wrong location could lead to future problems as a result of limited growing space, insects, diseases, or poor growth.
Many arborists also provide a variety of other tree care services, including:
Plant Health Care, a concept of preventive maintenance to keep trees in good health, which will help the tree better defend itself against insects, disease, and site problems
cabling or bracing for added support to branches with weak attachment
aeration to improve root growth
installation of lightning protection systems
spraying or injecting to control certain insect and disease problems
Selecting the Right Arborist for the Job
When selecting an arborist,
Check for membership in professional organizations such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), or the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA). Such membership demonstrates a willingness on the part of the arborist to stay up to date on the latest techniques and information.
Ask for proof of insurance and then phone the insurance company if you are not satisfied. A reputable arborist carries personal and property damage insurance as well as workers compensation insurance.
Many homeowners have had to pay out large amounts of money for damages caused by uninsured individuals claiming to be tree experts. You could be held responsible for damages and injuries that occur as a result of the job.
Check for necessary permits and licenses. Some governmental agencies require contractors to apply for permits and/or to apply for a license before they are able to work. Be sure they comply with any local, state, provincial, or national laws that govern their work.
Ask for references to find out where the company has done work similar to the work you are requesting. Don’t hesitate to check references or visit other work sites where the company or individual has done tree work. Remember, tree care is a substantial, long-lasting investment; you would not buy a car without a test drive!
Get more than one estimate, unless you know and are comfortable with the arborist. You may have to pay for the estimates though free estimates are common, and it will take more time, but it will be worth the investment.
Don’t always accept the low bid. You should examine the credentials and the written specifications of the firms that submitted bids and determine the best combination of price, work to be done, skill, and professionalism to protect your substantial investment.
Be wary of individuals who go door to door and offer bargains for performing tree work. Most reputable companies are too busy to solicit work in this manner. Improper tree care can take many years to correct and, in some cases, it can never be corrected. Are you willing to take that risk with your valuable investment?
Keep in mind that good arborists will perform only accepted practices. For example, practices such as topping a tree, removing an excessive amount of live wood, using climbing spikes on trees that are not being removed, and removing or disfiguring living trees without just cause are unnecessary.
Get it in writing. Most reputable arborists have their clients sign a contract. Be sure to read the contract carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, such as
When will the work be started and completed?
Who will be responsible for clean-up?
Is this the total price?
If I would like more to be done, what is your hourly rate?
This paper is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing contained herein constitutes legal, financial or other professional advice. Transmission of these materials is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any relationship of any kind between the provider and the recipient. Some of these points may not apply in your area. Different term and conditions may vary from state to state and province to province. All articles, text and photographic material presented here is for the use and pleasure of the recipient only. Download PDF