Inspect your tree for good health

November 08, 2008|By ROBERT KESSLER

Now is a good time of the year for property owners to look closely at their trees. This includes the street trees along the property.

With the leaves off most of the trees, you can inspect your trees for structural damage that might have occurred during the past year and not have been visible during the spring and summer.

Under Pennsylvania law, it is a homeowners' duty to exercise care, good judgment, caution and foresight by inspecting trees regularly and recognizing situations that might cause trees or tree branches to break or fall.

Small trees with minor damage can probably be taken care of by the property owner, but large, mature trees will likely need the help of a professional tree service.


To look for hazardous conditions, inspect each tree systematically. Start by scanning the top, using binoculars if necessary. After reviewing the crown, look downward along the trunk and then carefully examine the root zone. Look for splits and cracks in the trunk and limbs. Look for sap seepage, as this can indicate a hidden crack or split. Look at the ground. Can you see uplifted soil or disturbed roots that can indicate root damage?

Older trees might have accumulated multiple defects and extensive decay. Decaying trees are more prone to failure than younger trees.

But the presence of decay alone does not necessarily mean failure. Soft, crumbly wood with a cavity is an indicator of decay, which might be serious. Evidence of fungal activity, such as mushrooms and conks, are additional indicators of decay.

If you notice any of these symptoms, call a company that has a certified arborist who can advise you how to deal with the problems. When in doubt about the safety of a tree, consult a certified arborist.

Screen potential arborists by asking for references, certificates of insurance and how they will prune the trees (see if they mention that their work will be in accordance with National Tree Pruning Standards).

Avoid arborists who mention topping. Topping leads to disease, decay, split bark, insect infestation, dense shade, bird problems, high maintenance costs and decline of the tree. Topping accelerates the death of many of our trees.

New Pa. forests Web seminar center

Penn State Natural Resources Extension is rolling out a new, free, monthly, online seminar series for forest landowners and natural resources professionals alike.

The PA Forests Web Seminar Center (at will offer one-hour, online, live presentations by experts in a variety of fields related to the stewardship and issues of Pennsylvania's forest resources. The seminars offer a chance for landowners and natural resources professionals to learn and gain resources to enhance their own practices.

Seminars are scheduled the second Tuesday of every month at noon and 7 p.m. The next Web seminar, "Timber Taxes," is on Nov. 11. Future topics include: oil, gas and mineral leasing; harvesting; timber sales and markets; wildlife habitat; invasive insects; succession planning; invasive plants; forest management and regeneration; and water resources on your forestland.

Go to the Web site to view the upcoming seminars schedule and to register. There is no cost to participate, but you register for the live seminars. Presentations will usually last about an hour, though sometimes questions can run long.

Each session will be recorded and loaded onto the Web Seminar Center along with a copy of the presentation and any handouts. So if you are unable to participate in the "live" session, a recording of it will be available for you to view at your convenience.

To participate or view previously recorded seminars, you will need a high-speed Internet connection and a computer with sound. Participation in the Web seminar does not require any special software.

For additional information on the seminars, contact Allyson Muth at 814-865-3208 or

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