Damaged Cottonwood Tree

withxlovexxApril 17, 2014

Hello everyone! I hope this is the right place to ask this question... :)

We have a pretty old cottonwood tree in our backyard. Sometime last year we had a pretty bad storm and we noticed some damage to the bark of the tree after that storm. It's been very windy here lately and I'm not sure if that's irritating the previous damage, but this tree is looking worse than before. A large chunk of bark (probably 1.5-2 feet in length) fell off the tree yesterday.

We've considered having the tree cut down but it is VERY tall and will cost us a good chunk of money. I was just curious if anyone here could give me some input on how they think the tree looks. Hopefully you can see the damage in the photo. The photo I included only shows the damage to the front of the tree. There is another similar looking spot on the right side of the tree. Is this something we should be seriously concerned about? Or will this tree be okay as is?

Any input is greatly appreciated.
Thank you!

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Be careful. Make sure that the wound closes itself. If not, it will rot the insides out. Although it already looks a bit rotted.

As long as you don't have a huge wind or ice storm, the tree may be ok for another couple years.

But to be safe, I think you should invest in taking it down, since it is a short lived tree. They are prone to disease and rot.

Take it down, and plant a hardy tree in its place!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 9:56PM
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Thank you for the input! I definitely agree with you that it has already begun to rot. I doubt that it will heal entirely, which definitely worries me. If this tree were to fall over it would be a complete disaster. I like the idea of replanting a hardier tree. Especially one that doesn't drop those annoying yellow, sticky pods and then the cotton in the summer.

I will continue to monitor this tree and see if I can get a good deal on having it cut down.

Thank you so much!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 10:25PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

there is nothing to be careful about..

THAT TREE HAS TO GO ... the interior is rotting.. and NOTHING will save it ...

as one with no budget.. trust me.. i know the pain ...

but i see structure nearby... this thing is going to fall.. period.. when.. no one knows .. but if it can fall on the house... you have problems ...

get rid of it..

sorry.. i am sure that is not what you want to hear..


    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 8:28AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Sorry to say, but I agree withe the others. Probable original problems developed due to the drought, and now it's going downhill. And since you state mayhem would ensure if failure occurs, then it is time for it to go.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 8:47AM
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So sorry not to respond sooner! But I wanted to say that I certainly appreciate the additional feedback!

I actually have constant worries that this tree will fall. When its very windy I will stare out the window to see how much it's moving. Thankfully, it doesn't seem to move much. My parents planted this tree before I was even born so it's been around for a while. And I hope it's developed a very extensive root system that's holding it down. I have noticed that the spots of bark are getting worse, not better. More pieces are falling off, exposing the real damage underneath.

Ken is right, there are a multitude of nearby houses, sheds, and other things that this tree would fall on. That is my absolute biggest concern. I think this tree is the tallest one in our neighborhood, I can spot it from a good distance away. It could probably take out two houses if it landed just right.

I will definitely be looking into having it safely removed before anything devastating happens. Again, thank you all for your input - you've solidified my concerns & I can make the right decision now.

Have a great day! :)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 2:36PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

That looks bad. Usually I recommend the certified arborist come by and look at it, but if one came by and said it was not a hazard I would be amazed and want to know what I am not seeing.

Start getting estimates. I removed some large white ash and silver maples from my property. Boy do I miss them and boy did paying to have the worst two removed really suck. But I feel better about now having a tree with a water holding soft crotch hanging over my (AND MY KID'S) bedroom.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 11:58PM
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blakrab Centex(8a)

Why don't people think before they choose what to plant in their yards??? Cottonwoods are simply not trees you'd want anywhere near your house, because they grow so tall, but with weak wood.

"Despite a propensity for weak wood, cottonwood trees can live 100 years or longer.
Although cottonwoods live for 100 years, they may not be structurally sound for more than 70 years. The heartwood of the tree rots over time, weakening limbs and branches. Storms and high winds may break the branches, leaving holes in the trees. The holes make fine habitats for bees, raccoons and squirrels, but they also render the tree unstable."

In the wild, they grow in riparian zones and create habitats for animals as they rot or fall. Works great by a stream with plenty of clearance...but not so much right outside your bedroom..

Here is a link that might be useful: Cottonwood Trees

This post was edited by blakrab on Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 0:31

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 12:29AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i appreciate arborists.. IF the tree can be saved ... and that is where we can give a quick assessment ..

but in this case.. i dont see where spending a hundred bucks or two.. will get you any better info ... the OP need an INSURED tree monkey with a chainsaw ...

blak ... because they heard it was fast growing.. and they wanted shade.. who knew.. pre WWW that fast growing trees.. lead fast to disease.. and breakage.. and problems.. a few decades later .. which in tree years.. is rather fast ...

BTW ... there is a lot of good OUTDOOR firewood there [not for the fireplace or woodburner] ... and a ton of chipped mulch ... if you can use either... dont let them drag it away.. and hire another guy to bring some back ...


ps: i think this was all caused by the thermometer ... lol.. just kidding ... actually .. my first thought was historical lightening .... quite a long time ago ...

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 8:00AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Withlovexx, FWIW, I have read cottonwoods can be cloned by taking a couple foot cutting and sticking it in damp soil. I am sure there is more to it than that but my neighbor did it with a weeping willow.

Blakrab, I know what you are saying but would like to add a point for discussion. In my travels I have been places where there just are not that many choices for reasonably quick groing broadleaf trees. Phoenix, Vegas, South East California, heck, Denver even. Go back fifty years to when folks had less faith in their ability to affordably water exotics and shipping was not what is is now and you just had fewer choices.

far as the ornamental value, there are a half dozen cottonwoods I use as landmarks. Big thick trunks and manly stature. One on the river by Kinder's, New Halls Ferry and Douglas, Soix Passage Park has a couple, two at the confluence park down the road. There are a few which look great even in winter. But yeah, I don't plant em where they will overhang my home. A/C is just affordable now. Different than the sixties when it was all relatively new.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:15PM
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Here's Rip Van Winkle, the cottonwood that forgot it's own funeral.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 3:47PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

That I would put in my front yard!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 7:37PM
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I have gotten cutting from a cottonwood to root similar to a willow.
I just put mine in a pot of dirt and kept it moist to wet. 2 out of 3 cuttings rooted.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:32PM
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toronado3800 - youâÂÂre absolutely right, it does look bad. And, like I said, I think itâÂÂs getting worse. Not very rapidly, but itâÂÂs clear that the bark will continue to fall off. IâÂÂm sure the tree services will have a field day quoting us estimates on the removal of this tree but IâÂÂm more than willing to entertain that at this point. I couldnâÂÂt live with myself if this tree fell on someone elseâÂÂs house and all the devastation that comes along with that. & I like the cloning info - it would be kind of neat to have another one of these trees⦠far, far from the house!

blakrab - thanks for the link you provided! I think for most people, a tree is a tree. Most donâÂÂt think about lifespan and what kinds of interesting things they may drop throughout the seasons. My parents said they actually dug up this tree from a field that grows by our house. And they transplanted it to the back of our yard, as you can see. That was back in the early 80âÂÂs. My parents never intended to live in this house for 30+ years. But here we are in the same house with an old cottonwood thatâÂÂs on its deathbed. The good news is that this whole experience will make us think twice about the types of trees/plants that we incorporate into our yard.

Ken - Haha, that poor thermometer is probably as old as the tree! But hey, it still works! & yes, lightning was our initial thought as well. We first noticed the damage after a storm so itâÂÂs possible that lightning was involved. We may have a use for the chipped mulch - there would certainly be a good amount of it!

Mackel-in-DFW - holy tree! What an amazing sight! Glad thatâÂÂs not the tree IâÂÂm dealing with though!

scotjute - I have a feeling cuttings from this tree would do well. The tree seems to be hardy, but, as mentioned before, not long lasting and not suitable to be hanging over the house. If I ever decide to take cuttings of tree roots, I will try your technique!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:21AM
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