June 2, 2020

Nature vs. Nurture

The first part of this is a slightly biased testimonial. Several weeks ago, I had two Oak trees taken out from the back of my property. The trees had Hypoxylon canker, a fungus disease that is non-preventable, non-treatable, and fatal if you happen to be an Oak tree. It was fatal for these two. I put off their removal as long as I could. If they were to fall, they could hurt somebody – maybe hit the house.

Downey Trees removed the Oaks for me. Who else? It was expensive. Yes- I had to pay for it. I worried that the removals would have dire consequences to my shade garden and to my little slice of the great North American forest. Yet, in the midst of this cloud of worry, a silver lining emerged: my Downey Trees crew did a fantastic job! They were not hand-picked by me: they were dispatched to my house just as they would have been to yours. They did not even know they were at my house until I told them where they were. The crew did an excellent job! They went above and beyond what I asked and did it cheerfully. Collateral damage was minimal. I hardly knew they had been there when I got home (I couldn’t bear to stay and watch the process!) except that my little forest looked better and the two dead Oak trees were gone. The crew exceeded my expectations. This is what we always try to do at Downey Trees.

The Great North American Forest was here before we were. We choose to live in it and have carved cities into it. We love our trees and yet agonize when we pay to remove one, or it hits our house, or one tragically hurts or kills someone when it fails. We have chosen to live in Nature, and nature will prevail. There are a hundred reasons as to why a tree dies, why that limb falls without any provocation and lands precisely on the hood of your car – not the one that has 200,000 miles on it. No, it’s the one that won’t be paid for until 2023. Trees are simultaneously wondrous and detestable, beneficial and parasitic, an asset and a liability.

Such is the nature of trees, though we do, and we must, live with them. I once spoke with someone who was deathly afraid of trees. It was all I could do to resist suggesting that they might want to move to Phoenix, but even there it is not out of the realm of possibility that a Saguaro Cactus falls on your house! The lives of trees and our lives parallel in many ways, though on a far divergent wavelength (see “Do Trees Harbor a Hidden Life?” (Blog Post-6.24.2019). They spring from a seed, grow rapidly through their formative years, reach a plateau of maturity, grow into old age, decline, and die. Just in the past few weeks I have seen these and other vagaries of nature:

  • Ever-advancing Botryosphaera “Bot” Canker and Seiridium Canker on Leyland Cypress (see The Heartbreaking Leyland Cypress (Blog Post- 10.18.18) and The Trouble with Leyland Cypress (10.28.16).
  • Phylloxera galls on Hickory Leaves. Insects lay their eggs in the leaf stems, and all of the sudden the leaves fall off the trees as if we were having an early Autumn without any leaf color (if you have seen this, not to worry – it is not a serious condition).
  • Popcorn disease on Red Mulberry.
  • Lecanium Scale on Willow Oak. These Oaks are commonly used in the landscape, and this insect commonly attacks them when they are in stressed situations.
  • Trees planted and / or mulched too deeply, the dieback in the tops of the trees related to root loss.

These and many others are examples of Mother Nature, in all her complexity, at work. Sometimes the adversity that befalls a tree, such as the Hypoxylon canker I mentioned earlier, cannot be remedied. Sometimes a remedy may exist, but the cost may be excessive or the application impractical.

Sometimes, however, some of the hazards of nature can be mitigated or even prevented through Nurture. I cite yet another example from my own experience. I used to have a magnificent Tulip Poplar in my little slice of the great forest. I knew it was the tallest tree on my property, probably taller than most of the trees in the general area. I thought for years that I ought to put a Lightning Protection System (LPS) in that tree, but procrastination and the thought of parting with the money caused me to put it off. In 2011, I paid dearly for my delay. During a summer thunderstorm lightning struck the tree, and the water inside it instantly turned to steam, which had no way to escape save by causing the tree to explode. Bits of the tree were blown more than 50 feet away, and a tumble of huge limbs piled up at the base of it. The trunk of the 80-foot tree was split halfway to the ground. Installing that $1,200 LPS would have saved me the agony of the $4,000 crane removal of the tree. Such is the cost of procrastination, and an idea of the return on investment one might expect from helping Nature with a little bit of Nurture!

The Arborists at Downey Trees have a myriad of tools available to them to help you with the nurture of the trees in your little slice of the Great North American Forest:

  • Pruning: Proper pruning is one of the best ways to improve the safety, longevity, and aesthetic appeal of your trees. A systematic pruning program is one of the best ways to monitor the health and status of a tree, particularly regarding those stately specimen trees that may well define the character of your property.
  • Plant Health Care: Restoring the “forest like” status of soils altered by urban development is one of the primary goals of Plant Health Care. A tree nurtured by a well-executed and monitored Plant Health Care program is much better able to withstand the vagaries thrown at it by nature. Plant Health Care may not be feasible for every tree on your property but should be considered for the important ones!
  • Structural & Environmental Support: Such tools as bracing, cabling, and that Lightning Protection System I alluded to earlier are included in the Arborist’s tool bag to protect and maintain those really important trees, and an investment here can possibly save a big expense later. I can attest to that!
  • Prudent Removals: Removal of a tree is often the best course of action. At Downey Trees, it is the action of last resort.
  • Excellent Stewardship: We understand the value of trees and their contribution to your property. We also strive to maximize the value you receive when you trust your resources with us.

Whatever the stage of the trees in your part of the forest, we at Downey Trees can help you work with nature to nurture the trees in your environment. As stewards of both your trees and your resources, it is our overriding goal to keep your trees safe, growing, and a valuable part of your home or business.

June 2, 2020