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University of Illinois Extension

Prioritize Storm Damaged Tree Care

December 2, 2013

Pictures of tornado damage in central Illinois show flattened houses and stripped, uprooted, and fallen trees. Rhonda Ferree, University of Illinois Extension educator in horticulture, says, "Tree damage, unless it's a hazard or liability, isn't critical now." "Most of tree repair work can be done later this winter." The following checklist will help you prioritize those tasks.

1. Take safety precautions. Look up and look down. Be on the alert and stay away from downed utility lines and dangerous hanging branches which look ready to fall. If ladders or overhead chain saw work is needed, consider hiring a professional.

2. Assess the damages. Trees have an amazing ability to recover from even the most severe cases of broken branches and torn bark. However, heavy splitting of bark and extensive crown damage may be too much to save the tree.

3. Remove any broken branches or stubs still attached to the tree. Make the cuts back to the nearest desirable limb or to the branch bark ridge on the trunk. Do not leave stubs of limbs showing after the pruning. Such stubs are good "conduits" to start wood decay and increased insect activity, especially if ragged and torn.

4. Resist the urge to over-prune. Use the wait-n-see method over the next year to see how the plant recovers. It might take a few years to properly balance the tree's growth.

5. Do not top your trees! Use judicious selection and proper pruning methods on only the limbs that need repair. "Topping", or simply trimming off the ends of the branches at the top or sides of the tree, results in a flush of weak branches sprouting from the pruning cut, called a "witches broom". Such branches are usually weak and have narrow branching angles, which can lead to further breakage.

6. When in doubt, you might want to have an insured, certified arborist take a look at the tree. Find a certified professional on the Illinois Arborist Association webpage at www.illinoisarborist.org.

For more disaster relief information including the factsheet "Pruning Storm Damaged Trees" go to http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt. You can also find resources and post questions on Rhonda's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ILRiverHort.

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any event listed in this news release, contact your local Extension office.

Source: Rhonda J. Ferree, Extension Educator, Horticulture, ferreer@illinois.edu

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