Being Your Tree’s Advocate
Written by: Maria Panasuk, ISA Certified Arborist WI-1479A
Nature cannot speak for or represent itself, so it becomes our duty to support them to the best of our ability. Your trees representation starts with you! You can best advocate for your tree by knowing a few basics about them.
Starting you can gather a lot of information by knowing the family or genus of your tree. Understanding if it is a maple, ash, oak or hickory is important! This knowledge is instrumental in knowing what insect or disease issues the tree may encounter. The tree type influences the growth form, fall color, timing of leaf out, sunlight needs, and more! Being aware of what a healthy version of your tree should look like will tip you off to anything unusual going on with yours. Certain families of trees are more likely to have structural or root problems. For example, any tree, if improperly planted, can develop girdling roots. However, maples and lindens tend to develop girdling roots more often, even if properly planted. Knowing that your tree is predisposed to a problem like this, you can keep an eye on the root flare and spot a potential issue before it becomes irreversible.
Learning the species of tree you have can lead you to a better understanding of potential health issues. For example, the rapid growth of an Autumn Blaze maple will need more frequent pruning to avoid structural defects that can lead to branch failure in the future. It is important that these trees be pruned every 2 to 3 years to avoid those defects as much as possible. Other maple species do not require this much coddling and should be pruned every 3 to 5 years instead.
With conifers like spruces, knowing the species is especially important. A blue spruce is far more susceptible to a variety of diseases that need consistent treatment, whereas a Serbian spruce or Black Hills spruce are more resistant to the needle diseases and often perform well without treatment.
Being your tree’s advocate also comes into play during times of drought or extreme heat. It is especially important to keep a close eye on your trees and support them with proper mulching and watering to ensure they stay healthy in times of stress. Younger, less established trees will require more care during dry, hot seasons.
Trees are complex! And with so many varieties, it’s difficult to be an expert. But with a bit of knowledge and understanding of a tree’s needs, you can identify issues earlier, thus giving your tree a better chance of avoiding more serious issues if left unchecked!