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Tree Blog

How do I know if I should remove my tree?

Deciding whether or not to remove your tree can be a difficult decision. The best way to make
the call is to have a certified arborist from Family Tree Care come and take a look.

It is important to note that trees can be healthy but not structurally sound; or they can be
structurally sound but not healthy. For example, a big tulip poplar tree might have a full canopy
of leaves but be hollow at the base. The tulip poplar is healthy and alive, but it is structurally
unsound. Conversely the tulip tree could have branches dying back, indicating disease, but be
very solid and unlikely to fall.

The best way to decide whether to remove a tree or not is to evaluate the level of risk it poses to
you and/or your property. Risk is generally determined by examining the likelihood that a tree is
going to fail, and the chance it hits something important if it does fall. These two components
help us decide if a tree is too risky to be left standing.

It is often fairly easy to tell if a tree is going to hit something important but it is much harder to
tell if a tree is likely to fail. As a home owner you can probably say, “wow that tree would hit my
house if it fell,” or “if that branch falls it will land on my car.” As arborists it is our job to help you
understand the likelihood that a tree might fail so that you can make an informed decision about
tree removal.

Here are some signs that a tree might be at risk of failing.

Fruiting bodies from fungi

Fruiting bodies from fungi, or mushrooms, around the base of the tree or up the main
stem indicate that your tree has a serious structural defect and could fail.

Hollow base

If your tree is hollow at the base there is a good chance it should removed. A hollow spot
limits the trees stability, making it more likely to fail.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is hollow1.jpg

Heavy Lean

If a tree is leaning heavily it poses a greater risk of falling. A tree with a heavy lean
towards something important (like your house!) poses a greater risk and should be assessed.
Trees can be leaning heavily because they are beginning to uproot (you will see the ground
lifting on the opposite side of the lean), they are broken or fractured, another tree is leaning on
it, or other reasons.

Photo 1 shows a broken tree leaning over a house. Photo shows the end of a large tree leaning
heavily towards power lines.

Vertical cracking

Vertical cracking along a trees main stem or trunk often indicates a structural defect that
could cause the tree to fail.

Photo 1 shows a split in a large locust stem held together with a truck strap so that we could
safely work on it. Photo 2 shows a large broken out leader that was preceded by a vertical

Lightning strike

If you know or suspect that your tree has been struck by lighting it is a good idea to have
it evaluated and possibly removed. Lightning can cause severe internal cracks and weaken a
trees structure.

Photo shows a large white pine that was struck by lightning. There were long vertical cracks down the
trunk making the tree unstable.

These five reasons for tree removal are not the only justifications for removing a tree. They are
simply some of the most common and most straightforward. Don’t forget that tree removal
should be based on risk. You can do a good bit of the risk assessment yourself by determining if

the tree in question can hit something important. If you have questions or want the help of a
certified arborist in determining whether or not a tree should be removed please get in touch
with Family Tree Care.

This post was written by Jake Slade. Jake has his Connecticut arborist license issued by the
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and a bachelors degree in
Environmental Studies.