For many of us fortunate enough to have large towering trees in our yards, it is clear why these giants can be thought of as towering emperors lording over our property. Mature trees are magnificent creatures. They offer unparalleled beauty in our landscape, they improve our air quality, cool and insulate our homes, and richly increase our home’s value. But overly mature trees can be menacing accidents waiting to happen. Limbs that are over-reaching can fail under load. Old cavities can be inconveniently developed at critical areas along the trunk. Imbalanced canopies from years of growing in tight places or from canopy disfigurement from storm damage can threaten failure of serious scaffolding limbs. Most of us gain interest in our outdoor property assets when the weather is nice. Strolling ones grounds is normally more enjoyable with green grass and fresh leaf growth; this is just reality.
For Arborists who specialize in tree health evaluations, the spring can be just as enjoyable, albeit, distracting. Foliage quality tends to drive the subject of many evaluations due to the nature of client’s inquiries. Thorough arboricultural consultations concentrate on much more important matters, however. Foliage is important, but it only tells half of the story.
Trees have a dual nature. The biological nature is one of cell division and vegetative growth. Proper vascular movement, active photosynthesis, and timely seasonal cycles are all a part of this first nature of the tree. The second nature of the tree is the structure of the tree. Many trees in nature split and fall over, they break, they tumble. I have consulted on many trees where this is the case but the reality is that these trees aren’t necessarily “unhealthy”. Biological activity will continue and the tree, while fallen will continue to live. This is the fact of Arboreal Geriatrics, a great term for a grand old tree (John Stuart Martin, 1962). In the winter, deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves) provide the Arborist and the tree owner with a great opportunity. Without the cloud of foliage a look at the naked structure of the tree can be “A Great Revelation” as aptly coined by Sir. John Davey in 1908, the father of modern Tree Surgery.
Certain species benefit from winter season inspection, especially. Our state tree, the Pecan, Carya illenoinsis, is susceptible to Arboreal Geriatric failure (falling limbs, flaws, etc) and a great candidate for winter evaluation. It is when the tree is naked that many flaws and structural problems are revealed. It is time to take advantage of such exposure. Pruning plans can be deliberately written, flaws can be observed with clarity, and cable and support systems can be optimally designed.