Bending tree question

grinder12000(4 now 5 I guess)December 3, 2007

We planted a Autumn Blaze Maple in June. It was about 10-12 feet tall and all was well.

It has grown but now in the last few months we have noticed it is bending, not leaning but bending.

Normal? Do you think we should stake it in the spring to make it grow straight? I have seen other trees in the area also bending weirdly but this being the first tree "I" have planting I never see what happens in the long run.

Will it straighten out on it's own??

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

boy a picture would really help ... ken

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 12:13PM
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grinder12000(4 now 5 I guess)

I'll have one tomorrow!! Good idea!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 12:26PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

My trees bend because of the prevailing breezes/winds. I get to live with it.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 1:11PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

or its planted under another tree.. and it is stretching out to get to some sun .... though it would seem that it wouldnt do that in a single year ....


    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 1:22PM
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grinder12000(4 now 5 I guess)

This is a new yard and it's all by itself - sunlight whenever it wants it. It LOOKS like it is wind but actually it is bending to the west "into" a prevailing wind.

I'll have a photo tomorrow . . . if I get home before dark - I think we only get 15 minutes of light a day now LOL!!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 1:40PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

grinder, most of my young hardwood trees are showing a tendency to bend into the wind, but not noticable until a couple yrs of growth. Trunk-bending at the ground is a different matter -- most are bent somewhat "with" the wind at that point, some quite noticably.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 9:58AM
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grinder12000(4 now 5 I guess)

Bend INTO the wind???? We have a good size west flow so that would be about right! Can I ask why? Has anyone ever asked a tree? I mean it seems logical an all but . . . sort of creepy!

Do that straighten out over time or do they just grow enough so it is not noticed!

Honestly - I'm excited that I planted a tree and will be able to watch it grow. Especially an Autumn Blaze Maple.

I also planted three clumps of Heritage River Birch that are doing great!!! Really pretty against the 8 inches of snow/ice even at a young age.

I have a photo of the Maple but . . . . it's in the camera in the car!


    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 4:50PM
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It sounds like the trunk is not large and tapered enough to hold the top upright. Under wind stress a properly tapered trunk of an unstaked tree should bend uniformly along the trunk, but a trunk without the proper taper will bend along one section near the ground.

This tree was not properly developed in the nursery. It may have been improperly staked in the nursery, or too severe pruning, and/or spaced too closely. Spaced too closely in the nursery row often produces very tall trees without branching along the trunk. Take a look at a row of trees at the local nursery that have been dug from the tree farm and balled and burlaped and you will see these very tall, unbranched trees.

Where is the tree bending? Staking should always be as low as possible on a tree to allow movement in the wind as this produces a stonger tree. There is not a lot you can do but stake as low as possilbe to upright the tree and remember to remove the stakes after one year.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 5:48PM
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I planted two parrotia persica trees in a West facing front yard on the North and South facing ends. They did not have any trees or building casting morning or afternoon shade on them.

When first planted, the tree on the Northwest end of my front yard appeared to have the nicest branching structure of the two trees. It did not lean at all into the wind, but died in the second year after planting when we were having an extended drought.

The other parrotia persica tree I mentioned planting on the Southwest end of my west facing front yard looked more like you described your Maple tree looks. It survived the drought, due to our water table being higher where it was planted, and it also shot up a tall main leader which leaned almost 45 degrees toward the west and slighly toward the Northwest.

I have ignored the tree for the last three years, because it does not produce very good fall leaf display coloration, and it would not have bothered me if the tree died.

This fall though; after nearly a full three years of that tree leaning, I suddenly noticed that the tree, without me having done anything to help the tree, has righted itself and now does not lean at all. The side branching has even developed into a nicer growth pattern structure.

Your Maple tree is a much faster growing tree than my Parrotia persica, so if you keep it watered properly, it seems reasonable to expect your tree to, much more quickly than my slower growing tree, produce whatever it needs for righting its main leader.

Even with that said, I do still agree with the advice given above, which suggests you stake it, so the rootball does not rock back and forth in the ground as the wind blows against it's fully leafed out summer canopy. Do not stake the tree until this coming Spring of '08 and just as the leaves are beginning to unfold.

When you do stake it install 3 6.5' tall "T" stakes around and about 8-12 inches away from the base of the trunk. Then secure the tree to those stakes with ties which are designed to not girdle or otherwise damage the bark on the tree's trunk and branches. While securing the ties make sure to leave enough slack in each so that the trunk can still blow with the wind; just not so far that the tender new roots in the rootball will be broken and ripped from the soil, where they have attempted to grow.

As long as you make certain that the tree's ties you have installed, are always kept slack enough to allow trunk movement and sway in gusty winds, you can keep the tree staked, in the manner I described, for up to three years. Just make certain to monitor and re-adjust, when needed, the ties; every few months as your tree's trunk grows, broadens, and stiffens.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 12:40PM
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grinder12000(4 now 5 I guess)

Here is the photo of the Maple - it's about 14 feet tall - I think it grew maybe 1.5 feet after we planted it in June.

it does not look like much but still - from straight up to bending - just wondering - thanks for the above suggestions.

And since this HAS to be the worst photo I have ever put on the net I have another of an oak tree we see looking out from our deck. taken last month at sun rise.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 12:56PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

10 or 12 feet before or after you planted it??

regardless .... the tip.. already looks like it is returning to upright ...

personally .... i would take off the smallest bunch of branches below the first large one that goes right ... at the appropriate time.. which for me.. would be anytime i walked by with the saw.. except for early spring sap flow time ... i am sure there is a proper time... others can tell you that.. but heck .... its a maple ... lol

one might argue that new transplants need all the leaves they can have.. to grow roots to get 'established' faster ...

but heck again ... if it grew 1.5 feet last summer.. i don't see how it could do that if it wasn't well on its way to being established ...

at worst.... take them off next fall ...

its a tree ... its growing like a weed... Ignore it.. and it will be fine ....

in year two ... watering from you should be limited to drought conditions ... or a few drinks in August ... otherwise.. let it search and seek its own water ...

good luck


    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 3:10PM
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grinder12000(4 now 5 I guess)

Thanks - MAYBE not 1/5 feet but I was surprised to see ANY growth the first year and even though it was sort of a sticj tree I know it grew UP way more then I thought it would.

OUT is a different story but I have never seen a skinny tall Maple so . . . . . .

It was packed among other trees at the nursery in a big pot so it could not grow OUT at all.

Good idea trimming those small branches - like you - I figure it will do what it needs/wants to do, just though there was some "bendy disease" I did not know about.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 4:05PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

Be glad you didn't plant willows! I went out just before it got cold, found my 15ft willow laying on the ground! We had gotten a lot of rain, so tree was pretty full of water. With the leaves that didn't fall off, some wind, wet wood, tree had just layed over, no stem cracks or splits.

I went and got some fence posts, staked that tree upright. Again, tree root part never moved, stem just got unbent. I continued on, staked the other 4 willows I had planted. The curly willows were not nearly as bendy, but I went ahead and staked them up anyway. I have a mix of Babylon and curly willows, planted in the wet area of my pasture. I am hoping they will spread dramatically, drink lots of water that ends up in that low area.

The two Cottonwood trees planted in that area, did not get bendy at all, seem fine with no staking. All of these trees have pretty good sized trunks, no little sticks. All have been planted about 3 months now, seemed quite happy thru fall. I was just amazed at how flat the willow got, then the kink of bending disappeared after staking. Guess I should be glad for the water quantity in it. Glad it happened before it got so cold and froze the ground!! Would be really hard to get a fence post in now.

I would agree with Ken, looks like your maple is coming back straight by itself. Always nice when a "first-ever" project works out! Maybe you can add some other interesting trees next year. I am trying a Sweet Gum for shade in another pasture corner. I like the leaf shapes. No local Sweet Gums. Variety is fun for me. Nice Oak photo.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 5:22PM
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The bark on your new maple seems to appear fairly fragile. I wonder if others would agree that it might be a good idea, if you used some tree wrap, pulled the snow away from the trunk and wound the wrap from the ground up to the first set of the lowest branches. Then, if you like, you could spread the snow cover back over the tree's rootball area.

It is my opinion that doing such would help prevent winter sun scald and also help discourage mice, voils, or other such hungry winter critters from damaging the still tender bark of this new tree. If you do that, it will be best to remove the trunk wrap after spring thaw, once the tree leafs out for the upcoming growing season.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 3:28AM
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Is it bending in the direction of the prevailing wind? Is that a windswept plain of mt top? Do the native trees bend? I know on some mountain tops all the trees are flagged from having been constanty blown in one direction. Mostly they are evergreens. Are maples native to this particular spot (not seeing any trees in picture).

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 8:46AM
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grinder12000(4 now 5 I guess)

We live with a fairway in our back yard and country beyond that. New golf course with farmland everywhere so wind is an issue. Windswept plain is a good way to put it but it's just a new area.
Most trees are Oak but Maple is abundant along with Birch and Basswood (which were awesome with the Red Admiral butterfly swarm last summer).

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 9:35AM
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grinder12000, As far as the Windswept plain goes, you are fortunate to have a blank canvas where your creative ideas can run.

Now that you got the courage to plant your first tree, begin to take down notes this winter of the direction from where your cold winter winds blow across the livable space on your property during different phases of winter and the earliest months of spring.

Then just prior to when the new trees you select to plant have broken their more dormant stage, create with those plantings some windbreaks in the areas you most need sheltered. Windbreak plantings consist of two rows of about the same height potential growing, either broadleaf or needle leaf, evergreen trees. Just make sure to stagger these rows a bit to make the second row screen the spaces created when you planted the first row. Then plant a third staggared row with 15 to 30 foot growing height potential, ornamental trees and shrubs.

When planning your design, choose trees which develop thick canopies and have narrow enough spread potentials so that they do not out grow or over crowd the area once they reach maturity; Just plant them close enough that at maturity each tree's branch spreads grow to a couple feet into it's neighbor tree's branching spread.

Your local extention office might be a good source for ideas of quality native plantings that will survive nicely in your area.

The maple tree you already planted on the west side of your property should prove to grow and produce a welcome shade for the upcoming summers. It is also nice that it will drop its shade in the winter months when you want the warmth of those afternoon sun exposure times.

From this point on, any other trees you plant to filter your summers' direct afternoon heating, should be very quality long lived trees. Look around your area at the mature trees growing now, and take note of which ones have survived the best. Your county extension agency would also be a good source to help you choose the most trouble free, quality trees.

In my area of the country, we have to stay away from brittle or soft wood trees' if not they grow so fast that they become more problems or become more ugly from branch failures than the benefit they provide. Also be sure to train these larger quality trees you choose to plant into trees with the best and strongest branching structures. Train them into trees with each having a tall and straight main leader trunk and properly spaced branches which have the best crotch angle.

When chosing to prune out branches, try to prune away those branches with sharpest V shaped crotches, especially the branches with such tight crotches and which seem to be growing strong enough upward to form a modified leader trunked tree.

Young ornamental trees that are allowed to grow with multiple trunks can be very pretty, These trees should be selected as ones which will mostly mature to be in the shorter ranges. their shorter potential growth heights help to retain the nice visual affect of the multiple trunks But for trees which are soft wood trees and even hardwood trees which will ultimately grow to heights of 40 feet or more, they are best be trained as single main leader trunk trees with well balanced side branches that have strong crotch angles.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 11:16AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

grinder, my saplings don't bend that much into the wind. But the trunk on yours is coming straight out of the ground, so unless it seems loose, staking prb'ly isn't necessary -- it'll straighten up.

The only explanation I can think of for my trees is that when leaves were presenting wind-resistance, those branches were actually upright as long as the wind was blowing (which it usually does). So when the wind stops or the leaves are gone in the winter & no longer presenting any wind-resistance, they're bent slightly upwind. But just guessing.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 11:51AM
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grinder12000(4 now 5 I guess)

Great suggestions.

Cu the sharpest V shaped crotches? Why ??? just curious.

We built and moved into the house in June. The backyard that looks onto the fairway/country faces due south. So we planted the Maple back right for shade in late afternoon. Also this will make the wind tunnel between houses less of a "problem" when it gets bigger.

Then back left we have three, three trunk clusters for Heritage River Birch. Two reasons. Dabble sunlight on deck and many branches for wayward golf balls (we're in a good location so only 2 last year).

Front of house faces due North. Mostly garage (as they do now a days) and spare room. Front yard has a Donald Wyman Flowering Crab. We're thinking about a 2nd one front left.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 12:48PM
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Beeone(4 N. Wyo.)

Still curious what region you are in. I would guess midwest or north central areas with the snow, though.

I wouldn't stake the tree now if it isn't wobbling in the ground. It has had a year to put some roots out and appears to have grown nicely, so the roots have done likewise and it should be well anchored.

Many young trees will lean a bit and make you wonder if there is something wrong or if the tree will always look "bad" and lean. In a couple years, it will thicken and grow further and you'll never know it ever leaned--either it will look perfectly straight, or the slight lean, combined with the canopy that balances the tree overall, will make it look perfectly beautiful. Just let it be.

By the way, that is a great picture of the sunrise on the clouds, and that giant oak tree looks a lot like the beautiful older cottonwoods we have around here.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 2:39AM
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Answer: sharp "V" shaped crotches make for a more risky branch failure potential. Generally speaking, the more "L" shaped the crotch of a branch is; the stronger the branch toward avoiding branch failure problems during the latter decades of a tree's life expectancy span. That is also true during gusty windy conditons, even with younger hardwood trees.

Good choice planting Heritage River Birch trees. Once establish, the Heritage cultivar of RB is very tough. As your Birch trees mature,the winds blowing through their leaves in the summer should begin to seem nice and even a bit surreal when you are sitting on the deck as the leaves flutter and produce the nicest rustling sounds.

At my house, the winter winds seem to gust the strongest as they come from the northwest, hit that corner of the house, and blow past toward the southeast. Since we get very few moist, wind driven drifting snow events, I missed that understanding for years. It was not until last winter, when the snow's consistancy was just right for blowing and sticking tracks that the wind had plowed through, when I first began to realized this wind factor at my house.

Prior to this most recent discovery, I also thought my wind pattern mostly flowed from the North to South in winter, and many times from the South to North in summer. Even though that factor is true, the Northwest to Southeast gust tunnel track seems much more intense. In fact, in that tunnel, I have had to pound into the ground a "T" stake and tie a young three foot tall Thuja "Green Giant" tree I first planted last spring in this gust tunnel. I tied the tree to the stake in a manner listed in my other post. Before doing that, multiple times the wind's in that area have uprooted the tree on the wind force side. The tree gets blown over while remaining rooted in the ground on the other side of the tree.

This blowing over has happened so often in the past 6 months or so, that the uprooting side of the tree's rootball has not gotten the chance to secure themselves in the ground. Now at least by staking the tree; the roots on that side will get the chance to develop and spread enough to withstand prevailing gust force wind on that side. I expect that it could take several years before the root ball of my tree develops enough to withstand our cold front wind events which so often blow through in the winter, and thunderstorm downburst forces and gusts blowing through in the spring and fall.

One other note: The trees you listed seem like nice choices, but take time this winter and compare to what you experienced last summer to select a place to plant several good quality, potentially long living trees in your landscape design. Such trees will reward you for many more years than the shorter livespan trees you have mentioned. Even if you sell the house in a few short years such quality trees if wisely located on a lot can boost the trust for potential buyers. The slow growing quality trees which are potentially 44 - 60 feet tall growers, often look the best once they have grown higher than the roofline of your house to form a softening affect of the the, more hard appearing, roof line when one drives up to, or stands infront and looks at the curb appeal of your house.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 8:39AM
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grinder12000(4 now 5 I guess)

We're still mulling over the trees for the front - I'm with you on the longer lived trees and we do want to find room for another Autumn Blaze Maple (Urban tree of the year).

We just can't decide WHERE!! Perhaps I should post a yard plan and you guys can voice an opinion.

We are in Columbus Wisconsin. I have a personal Weather Station and if you look at the layout of the course you will see where our house is. Everything South, West and East is all farmland so we get more wind then when we lived in Madison.

Here is a link that might be useful: Columbus WI Weather - personal weather station

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 11:56AM
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Wow, lots of winter cold and winds, which make the ambient air temps feel twice or more colder. Take some serious time to design and later install landscaping which will create the micro climates you desire, and which will redirect away from the windows and doors in your house, such invasive, winter winds.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2007 at 1:20PM
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grinder12000(4 now 5 I guess)

So true katrina1 . The living area of our house faces due South so the trees will shade us in the summer and with no leaves provide warming sunlight in winter.

The Norths side of the house is garage and extra room. We have one tree in front and are working on landscaping.

Having a brand new canvas to work on is wonderful . . .but expensive. The REAL problem is the neighbor is new and as of yet people are not planting trees.

We will have planted eight trees on our property when all finished. 14 if you count the three clumps of birch as 9.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 11:10AM
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