Tree health — OSU urban forester suggests some precautions before bad weather hits, then steps for assessing the damage and recovering

The damage done to trees during harsh weather can be stressful, but there are precautions that can help trees survive damage during storms.

Typically, it’s after a storm that people learn the fate of their trees and how they could have prevented the damage, according to a press release from the Oregon State University Extension Service.

“It is typical for trees to suffer the brunt of the inclement weather,” said Paul Ries, an urban forester at OSU.

The clean-up after a storm is the worse part if the weather before hand has been particularly nasty and the soil waterlogged. Fortunately, Oregon has experienced a rather dry winter, so the soil trees are rooted in has not destabilized the entire tree.

“If the soil is waterlogged it can deprive tree roots of oxygen and affect root growth,” Reis said.

Some of the larger trees damaged by severe weather, and their broken or hanging limbs, need to be addressed by a professional. Fortunately, there are indicators individuals can use when taking care of their damaged trees.

“First,” Reis suggested, “the owner of the tree must assess whether or not a tree should or should not be saved.”

From that point, the property owner can ask some simple questions that will help assess the condition of the tree: Are major limbs broken? (“Generally if a tree limb is large, it will be more difficult for the tree to recover,” he said.)

Has the main upward-trending branch been lost? Are there remaining branches that can form a new branch?

“If a disease has weakened the tree by more than 50 percent, the tree should be removed,” Reis said.

If a damaged tree has suffered only light damage, Reis suggested the branches be pruned and any torn bark or rough edges be repaired to prevent disease. He also suggested that property owners not cut back all the branches because it will prevent foliage from growing and rob the tree of nutrients.

“The best time to prune trees is during their dormant season,” Reis said.

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