Thursday, August 23, 2012

Things fall down

This huge oak limb crash-landed just before midnight

Strange and ominous things have been happening, seemingly out of nowhere. For instance, just before midnight a gigantic boom shook the house and scared the living daylights out of us. I turned on the garage light and opened the front door to find several ginormous (a real word, click here) tree limbs on the ground, across the front yard, blocking the driveway and spilling out into the street. 

No rain or storm had provoked this event. In fact, it happened on a lovely and warm late summer night filled with the songs of crickets and tree frogs. Then suddenly, BOOM.

The good news? These gigantic leader branches were very polite in falling the way they did. Amazingly, the roof was completely spared as was a prized umbrella pine. A section of a much loved magnolia was split in half, but the damage was slight considering all that could have happened.

The bad news? Having tree work done is very costly and the timing could not have been worse.

The arborist that came to the rescue explained that white oaks can snap like this, and exactly why is a bit of a mystery, because when it happens, the leaders are usually not rotted nor infested with insects. It seems to happen most often in summer, during dry spells and with subtle imbalances in the weight of some branches over others. All these factors create a perfect storm of sorts and it didn't just happen here. Last week the arborist had another call from a man with the same trouble. He was standing outside in his back yard when a couple of huge oak limbs dropped like bombs from his tree and just missed him. Pretty scary. 

The lesson? When things fall down, find a way to count your blessings, pick yourself up and get on with it. 

And for those who would like to know more about pruning, 1) It is an art and 2) many trees are overpruned, which shortens their lifespan. I highly recommend two articles on tree pruning. You can find them here and here. 

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