Unexpectedly, back in 2010, tropical storm Sasha regained intensity. Sucked inland by a coastal low pressure system, her arms began to swing tighter and tighter like a figure skater. Hitting the North San Diego beaches, with wind whipped sheets of water, the storm created a water funnel, a miniature tornado condensed with moving torrents of evaporated ocean.
Touching down lightly at first in an open field, the spout skipped and hopped erratically. The inner core winds slowed slightly with the drag of friction upon the earth; the funnel, heedless of direction, slammed into the coastal condominium complex with the momentum and nonchalance of an avalanche.
High above the complex, wet with heavy amounts of rain, the Eucalyptus trees began to dance. Their tops, unaccustomed to the added weight of the water and wind, began to pirouette crazily. Twisting and turning, moving in random fashion. One by one, the long slender shafts began to break away. Some were carried mercifully away into the open parking lot by viciously clawing winds, but the heavier trunks became heavy spears thrown towards the Spanish tile roofs far below the broken tree tops.
Disintegrating the tile upon impact, several long pole like branches punctured the plywood like wet tissue paper. The immense weight of the trunks tore through the joicing to reveal large gaping holes and continued downward onto the slab until the butt of each branch had either come to rest on a solid surface or had crushed and intertwined with the furniture and debris within.
Frightening? Riveting? Real? Yes to all these questions. “But,” you may ask, “How?” Or more importantly, “Why?”
Most HOAs are run by confident intelligent and common sense-type people. Management, especially in the sue-happy climate in which we live, is constantly on the lookout for possible situations in which liability is a major concern.
Situations could run the gamut from a lifted piece of sidewalk to a lack of fencing around the pool area. Commonly, an administrator will consider the conditions of his trees last. Money constraints, budget concerns or just plain ignorance of a need in this area all contribute to the actualization of the above scenario and make it a foreboding possibility.
Yet what if the association had been conscientious? What if a program for regular tree maintenance had been instituted? That would have solved the problem, correct? Well, in most cases, I am sorry to have to report, the answer is no.
Trees are unusual and wonderful living things. They provide shade when we are hot, oxygen for us to breathe and great beauty for us to admire if we take the time out to stand back and enjoy their structure and graceful form. As such, these giants among the plant kingdom are extremely complex. Their growth patterns are varied, their organic needs are legion and yet to the ordinary child the simplicity of a tree growing up is commonplace.
Here lies the crux of the problem. In assuming this simple attitude we place a child’s viewpoint on a complex issue.
Many times the financial hobbles of cost influence the decision making process. Let me advise you! In the discipline of arbor culture be aware that you get what you pay for.
Trees, being complex as they are require and understanding and knowledge that can only be acquired through time, study and actual hands on experience. Tempered with the sagacity acquired from repeat experience and the wisdom of cause and effect, an arborist could have averted the disaster described in the beginning paragraphs.
No one can predict the possible destructiveness of Mother Nature, but an ounce of prevention is always less costly than a pound of cure.
A true arborist would have insisted that the trees involved on this property were never truncated or topped. If it were absolutely necessary, a method or technique called drop crotching would have been employed in order to reduce the overall height of the tree. This technique allows the arborist to reduce the height of the tree while maintaining a new central stalk or leader. This prevents the formation of weak and bushy sucker growth… often the cause of fallen branches.
Most arborists will advise you, tip and lace the tree. Remove not more than 20-30 percent of the foliage and structure the overall shape in the form of a vase. This helps the tree overcome the constant pull of gravity and minimizes the amount of new juvenile growth from the latent buds circling each individual trunk or stem.
“All this sounds great,” you might say, “But what about cost?” Well, like the vaudevillian acts of old you might say there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that cost-wise it’s about the same to lace and tip a tree as it is to top one. However, lacing and trimming should be done annually or the foliage becomes heavy with growth and the same problem of limb loss can occur. If a tree is severely topped though, it can usually go for a period of one to three years before it too becomes a problem all over again.
Trees that have been topped have a tendency to grow very quickly. Drawing from an already established root system that once fed a large tree top, this allows long, straight sucker growth to climb vertically with a typically weak union at the site of the old truncation. This kind of growth is far more dangerous in the long run and can be much more expensive to remove by the arborist because of this inherent weakness.
Classically, most HOAs will come in, whack their trees back for the lowest bid and wait a few years until a storm brings down a few branches as a reminder before the checkbook gets pulled out again.
Have questions about proper tree care in San Diego? Call Kent at 760-846-2200 today!