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Pruning out the large, broken branches from this winged elm should be performed by a certified arborist or tree care professional. The downed branches located in an open area are not in danger of damaging structure or valuables, but the branches are high in the canopy therefore needing professional assistance.

Trees After a Hurricane

By Brooke Moffis, Residential Horticulture Agent

Hurricane Irma’s winds damaged trees from the Keys to Jacksonville and almost everywhere in between.  Now that most residents in Central Florida have power, running water and life is returning to normal, it is a good time to assess your trees for damage.

Fallen trees in dangerous places

The most important item to consider when determining when to remove a tree is safety.  Is the tree in danger of falling on your home, shed, vehicles, or outdoor spaces that you frequent in your yard?  If so, these trees need immediate attention by a certified arborist.  Certified arborist are tree care professionals trained and tested on tree health, pruning, and planting techniques.  They are required to attend continuing education classes of the latest research to maintain their certification. Find a certified arborist in your area. If you do not have internet, contact our Master Gardener Plant Clinic for a list of arborist at 352-343-4101.

Fallen trees in yard

If a tree is in an open area and needs removal or has damaged branches, a tree care professional that does not have arborist certification may be used.  Make sure the company selected is licensed and can provide certificate of liability insurance.  A certified arborist must also be able to provide documentation of insurance and licensing.

When a tree needs to be cut down
The pictured Hercules club needs removal as more than ½ the major canopy branches were damaged. This tree species is weakly structured and prone to failure.

The pictured Hercules club needs removal as more than ½ the major canopy branches were damaged. This tree species is weakly structured and prone to failure.

The amount of damage a tree experiences will determine the treatment.  Broken branches in the canopy can be pruned out to avoid further damage, but when the main trunk of the tree is severely damaged or split, little can be done and the tree will need to be removed.  According to the University of Florida, “If over half of the canopy is gone (including the main leader) with several broken stems, the tree should be cut down.”

To save uprooted small trees, under 4 inches in diameter, place them upright, replant the exposed root structure and stake so the tree trunk remains in place.  The sooner you can reposition an uprooted plant the greater the chance of survival.

Some trees are better at blocking off decay and overcoming damage than others.  This should be another consideration when deciding to remove or restore.  For example, live oaks and winged elms may be worth saving after experiencing damage, whereas water oaks and laurel oaks are poor at blocking off decay and may not be worth saving.

Chainsaw safety

Do not attempt to use a chainsaw if you are not physically fit and have limited knowledge on its operation.  Only use a chainsaw when working on the ground.  Once you have to reach overhead, climb a ladder or stand on another structure, call a professional.  I heard on the radio that most injuries from hurricanes occur after the storm passes when homeowners are outside cleaning up. Chainsaw safety.

Further information on tree recovery after a hurricane.

Plant Sale to rehab your garden

If you need to rehab your landscape due to the storm or want to add Florida-Friendly plants, visit the Lake County Master Gardener Annual Fall Plant Sale.  The Plant Sale will be held from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, October 7th, at the Horticultural Learning Center’s Discovery Gardens, which is located on about 3.5 acres behind the Lake County Agricultural Center, 1951 Woodlea Road, Tavares. The plant sale is sponsored by the UF/IFAS Extension, Lake County Master Gardeners.  Shop from over 3,000 Florida-Friendly plants including annuals, perennials, herbs, natives, shrubs, and tropicals.

3 Comments on “Trees After a Hurricane

  1. What are the rules for removing a Water oak tree? The one we have was planted too close to our house. Thanks!

  2. Can I wander thru the ag center gardens and purchase plants, or is the fall the only time to purchase plants?

    • We have two plant sales a year – Spring and Fall. Those are the only times you can purchase plants grown by the Master Gardeners. We do have a Landscape and Garden Fair coming up on March 24 and 25 when we will have all kinds of garden-related vendors. The Master Gardener Spring Plant Sale is coming up in April.

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