Want your professional opinions

hortster(6a, southcentral KS)February 17, 2014

Hey, all -

Last year the lacebark elm took a major hit. The south facing main leader got hit with a major wind storm and split off. I got on the ladder and climbed up, smoothing the wound with a chisel and hammer as best I could. From the pictures it may not look like the site of the main leader, but trust me it was. The first pic is the break. The second is from the right side. The third is from the far right side - the wound is at the bottom of the photo. The fourth is from the left - the wound is at the lower right center.

My concern is this. As you can see in the last pic the leaning weight of the remaining leader is over two things. My neighbor's fence and, should it fall as predicted, would land on his Bradford pear. As many of you know, I have NO love for Bradford pears. But I must say as an observer that this particular Bradford pear has weathered THREE ice storms without ANY damage. My jaw has dropped three times!

However, my concern is mainly for the elm. I would appreciate your thoughts about the potential recovery of the elm.

Mucho thanks to your thoughts!


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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Hortster, for pictures taken from ground level, your pictures are very good. However, I still feel pretty unsure of exactly how bad the damage to the existing structure is. I don't know for sure that I'd have a better feel if I saw it in person, but I think I probably would.

For near-term safety evaluation, only the supportive tissue going to the remaining branch is really going to matter. If the damage is deep inside the existing branch, that would concern me. If the damage is mainly confined to the tissue associated with the branch/leader, that is now gone, I wouldn't think that would have a significant impact on the remaining branch.

In the long run, of course, the speed of wound closure is going to have a lot to do with what happens down the road. If you do decide to keep the tree as it is now, do try to remember to keep an eye on it. As you know, the faster it covers over, the less likely you are to see failure from rot.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 10:54PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

brandon7, thanks for your thoughts. Your comment "...from the ground..." made me realize that a couple of close-ups might be needed. Been a long time since this old fella climbed a tree, but, here they are. The quarter is for scale.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 11:34AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I'm just whaas but those new pictures showing the depth and attachment would cause concern for me to either A) Remove that branch completely or B) cut my loses and get another tree planted in its place if thats what I so desired....not sure what the prupose of the tree is other than to provide shade and of course to have trees!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 1:12PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

gotta go .. some time in the next few decades ...

and since you are apparently part monkey.. you can keep track of rot ... until you cant climb anymore

but you still havent shown us the lower part of the tree... to see if there is any place where we could cut back to ... if not straight to the ground ...

that seems like a lot of healing in one year.. on the sides and top ... but that bottom inset cut is going to be a problem ...

OMG ..... there is a quarter sitting there??? ... you let go of the tree to get a scale out of your pocket ... crikey man.. i would have been holding on, sceaming like an 8 year old girl and peeing myself.. lol ...

can someone tell me if this is right ...

I THINK ... i see included bark at the top of the wound... and the weird pattern of the heartwood.. indicates.. that this was a Y of two branches.. and i would say that the included bark.. was what created the weak spot .. which eventually caused the failure ...



    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 2:45PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

The tree is just for shade, but also for "horticultural stubbornness." I lost the first lacebark to an ice storm many years ago, but enjoyed the bark on that particular elm, so I replaced it with another. We always emphasize diversity and this too is part of the reason. The tree actually fared better than many other species around the neighborhood through the 80 MPH wind storm (again, the neighbor's Bradford wasn't touched - an enigma).

I seek opinions on the wound because to remove the remaining stem below the existing wound would be, in essence, topping the tree and the wound from the removal would be larger than the one you see. Selfishly, I don't want to start over one more time.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 2:57PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

ken, LOL. When the injury occurred I used an extension ladder to clean things up, but for a couple of pictures it would have been a PITA to back the car out then get the ladder down from the ceiling hooks, so I used a step ladder and monkeyed up.

Trust me, though - I never had less than a firm three point stance and grip on that baby when I was up there. Reminded me of my childhood...

Yes, the beginning of included bark was probably the reason the leader broke off.

Picture of the whole tree below. I've been contemplating cabling it to the branch on the right only that branch is about half the diameter.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 3:13PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

ohhh... its not as large as your first dramatic pix made it seem ...

i only have the carp elms around here... i would destroy one.. if it offered this problem ...

i dont know anything about lacebark elm ..

are strong and long lived enough????


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 4:47PM
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Where's the linseed oil???

My very humble take on it. I'd leave it but make certain the neighbor was aware of the situation. Since you say it is fairly vigorous, it should encapsulate that wound in about 3-5 seasons I would estimate. What do you think about this estimate? It does appear to be precariously hanging over that fence and it is easy to see how compromised it is. The trunk above the split (nice work smoothing that btw) appears to be quite a bit thicker than the area of the split and should be prone to snapping right off? What direction does the wind hit that branch? Into the lean or with the lean?


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 7:06PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I'm pretty much thinking the same thing as John. Chances of it being fine (at least in the next few years) are probably pretty good. It could go tomorrow, but then almost any limb on any tree could, theoretically, go at any time. As John said, the wound doesn't look all that deep, and I'd suspect that most of the damage was done to tissue going to the missing limb/trunk and not the remaining one.

Part of me completely agrees with what John said about advising the neighbor, but the other part says, NOOOOOO. It may be the "neighborly" thing to do, but it also might lead to a busy-body neighbor wanting the tree gone or even to a little extra legal liability (because, when you tell the neighbor that it's a concern, you have basically put yourself on notice). Well, that's all stuff you will have to decide...I just wanted to say that there are two sides to that coin.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 8:56PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

One picture looks like the heartwood is missing and in another it doesn't.

If the heartwood is missing and that deep, can it even effectively heal itself?

This post was edited by whaas on Tue, Feb 18, 14 at 21:30

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 9:28PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"If the heartwood is missing and that deep, can it even effectively heal itself?"

From what I can tell from the pictures, it looks like the missing tissue belonged to the missing limb/trunk and not the remaining one. As you know, trees don't "heal" themselves, they cover over wounds. The missing xylem should not have a significant impact on the tree's ability to cover over the area. The lack of branch-collar tissue may make the healing process much slower, especially for complete coverage.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 9:42PM
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Voyage034(USDA 10a Sunset 23)

If it were my tree I would cut it back to the next branch juncture. While it would be a large cut, it just might close faster since the break above is irregular and has some vertical damage, both being problems that take a long time to close. The longer a wound is open the greater chance at decay organisms entering the wound, as well as boring insects being attracted to the tree. If left, that spot will always be a point of weakness. You should keep in mind that knowledge of a problem and not addressing it can potentially increase your liability.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 9:54PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"...knowledge of a problem and not addressing it can potentially increase your liability."

Technically, actual knowledge of a (potential for a) problem is meaningless to liability unless it can be proven. That is one reason I would carefully consider mentioning this to the neighbor.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 10:09PM
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Reason I would mention it to the neighbor is partly because I want to see how he reacts to the news. If I got the feeling he was going give me a huge headache if it did fall, I'd probably remove that whole large limb section as voyage mentioned. If on good terms with the neighbor, an offer of replacement tree for the Bradford and responsibility of paying for fence repair if tragedy strikes would be ideal if this were my situation. Definitely a tough call as Brandon has stated in his replies.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 10:21PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Offhand, it looks like a good job cleaning up the wound, and that it should heal over quickly -- couple more yrs.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 9:43AM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Wow. I hesitate mentioning it to the neighbor - we have been neighbors for over 20 years and he probably hasn't said 10 words to me - no bad blood that I can think of but he has been very stand-offish and to himself for whatever reason.

j0nd03, LOL, no linseed oil on this one! It is so fissured and raw that it wouldn't matter anyway, pro or con. The predominant wind hits in the direction of the bend, meaning
with less resistance.

I appreciate all of your thoughts here - I think I will take the middle road and see how well it heals over the next year or two. My experience with the wood is that it is pretty strong and it takes a huge amount of ice weight or one hell of a breeze to cause damage, both have happened in that order to my first and second lacebarks. I am still thinking about cabling to the smaller adjacent branch but will have to give that some thought.

Thanks again to all! If things should go south, I'll recall this thread.


    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 11:02AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Chinese elm wood is strong, but the problem is the excessive, thin twigginess that presents alot of area for ice to accumulate. I'm guessing (hoping) a bit, but think eventually the larger branches become thick/strong enough to limit damage to smaller branches from ice-storms. Mine (30' tall) does indeed accumulate alot of ice & bend alot, but is upright enough to avoid one-sided/damaging bending. The worst bending occurred from a very early (Halloween) snow couple yrs ago when leaves were still on.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 2:48PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Exactly what beng said. January, 2005. And that damn Bradford in the background...

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 3:35PM
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Given the apparent vigor (Large amount of callus formation), I'd opt to leave it be, at least for now. Beyond the fact that, as Brandon has already state-one never can absolutely quarantee the soundness of any tree part, there is nothing about this that necessarily screams branch failure. Having said that, sometimes when trees start breaking up, it seems like the process then continues. But you'll have some idea whether or not this is the case here after a season or two.

As to telling the neighbor, I side with the "use caution" approach, in terms of signaling to him or anyone else that you are aware of a problem.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 4:48PM
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