Recently, I spent some time with my uncle at his home in Perry, Florida. Perry specifically and Taylor County as a whole were one of the hardest-hit areas from Hurricane Idalia. My uncle said that most of the powerline poles had been replaced in his and surrounding neighborhoods as a result of this storm. Some were still being replaced when I was there. Every home in the area had large amounts of tree debris cut and piled up along the streets for pickup. Most every pile had the remains of large pine trunks intermingled in the debris.
The only damage to my uncle’s home was from a neighbor’s large pine tree. The top of that tree was blown through the air and slammed into his roof, puncturing the roof and leaving a large hole through the bottom of the garage ceiling. In addition to the direct wind damage and resulting downed trees, with a storm such as Idalia, there will be much follow up removal and pruning of leaning, partly uprooted, and damaged trees.
Trees are an important part of our ecosystem, economy, landscape and heritage here in North Florida. As a matter of fact, Taylor County began a Pine Tree Festival in 1955 to help educate the public about the timber industry in that area. Now known as the Florida Forest Festival, the goal of the festival is to promote the benefits of our state’s forests as well as to celebrate people who protect and work in them. The 68th Annual Florida Forest Festival is scheduled to take place in Perry on October 28, 2023. Here is a link with more information on the festival: https://floridaforestfestival.org.
It is important to not wait until a storm event such as Idalia to inspect and manage trees on your property. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when preventing tree damage. Even without a major storm, we have relatively high winds associated with our frequent thunderstorms here in Florida. Compared to many parts of the United States, we live in a fairly high-risk area for storm damage with lots of large trees.
Professional help sometimes is your best option when dealing with trees. Property damage could be reduced by having a professional arborist evaluate unhealthy, injured or questionable trees to assess risk and treat problems.
Hiring a certified arborist can be a worthwhile investment. To find a certified arborist in your area, contact the International Society of Arboriculture at 888-472-8733 or at www.isa-arbor.com. In addition, here is a UF/IFAS Extension link with a wealth of information related to trees and hurricanes: https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/treesandhurricanes.
Today I’ll be spotlighting the mangrove. If you’ve been to the southern part of the State, you’ve most likely come in contact with this truly Florida native plant. They’re an essential part of the shoreline ecosystem in that region and as common as pine trees are to our area. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimates 600,000 acres of mangrove forests in the State’s coastal zone. If your investigative skills are sharp, you may now find pockets or singular mangrove plants in the Panhandle.
Mangroves are woody trees that live along tropical and subtropical shorelines in either marine or brackish tidal waters. Typically, mangrove distribution has been found between latitudes 25 degrees south to 25 degrees north. There are 80 species known worldwide with 3 species (red, black & white) historically calling south Florida home.
However, warmer ocean waters and more frequent and stronger tropical storm activity has helped the spread of mangrove seed or “propagules”. Mangroves have been slowly migrating northward in Florida, on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides. From the early 1990’s, researchers began to find mangroves in both Cedar Key and Cape Canaveral.
A multi-state partnership to assess mangrove expansion in the northern Gulf of Mexico began in 2018. Sea Grant Agents from the Panhandle of Florida to Louisiana collaborated to conduct field surveys in chosen coastal wetland and estuary zones. More than 500 plants were recorded over a 3-year period with 188 plants found in Florida. The study also confirmed the abundance of black mangrove species due to their ability to withstand light freezing temperatures over red and white mangroves.
As for their impact on our Panhandle wetland ecosystems, one consistent theme found in the literature is that there are ecological trade-offs for consideration by coastal scientists and natural resource managers (Osland et al, 2022). The benefits of mangroves are broad. Mangroves have been shown to filter runoff, trap carbon in peat, act as a buffer against flooding, improve water quality, and to provide an amazing habitat and food web for invertebrates, fish, terrapins and many bird species. Mangrove range expansion may also affect wetland stability in the face of extreme climatic events and rising sea levels and be used as a shoreline stabilization technique, as taught in the Florida Master Naturalist Program: https://masternaturalist.ifas.ufl.edu/. Mangroves are also a pollinator plant and a favorite of honeybees. Mangrove honey has become a sought-after delicacy for many and a niche crop for south Florida beekeepers. But what about the negatives? Some of the environmental concerns are increased nuisance insects, altered food webs, freeze vulnerability and the economic factor of reduced accesses to fishing areas (Osland et al, 2022).
With mangrove expansion being a relatively new topic, researchers, naturalists and plant enthusiasts alike, will be following the movement with great enthusiasm.
For more information about mangroves, contact your local county extension office.
Osland, M. J., Hughes, A. R., Armitage,R., Scyphers, S. B., Cebrian, J., Swinea, S. H., Shepard, C. C., Allen, M. S., Feher, L. C., Nelson, J. A., O’Brien, C. L., Sanspree, R., Smee, D. L., Snyder, C. M., Stetter, A. P., Stevens, P. W., Swanson, K. M., Williams, L. H., Brush, J. M., … Bardou, R. (2022). The impacts of mangrove range expansion on wetland ecosystem services in the southeastern United States: Current understanding, knowledge gaps, and emerging research needs. Global Change Biology, 28, 3163–3187. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.16111
Recently our area has experienced multiple severe wind events. You may have noticed some light to moderate damage to some of the trees in your yard. You may have even experienced severe damage or a complete failure of a tree on your or a neighbor’s property. While a complete failure or severe damage pose obvious hazards and need removal, it is the more minor to moderate damage that often raises questions on how to address the issue. Hanging broken branches are often called “Hangers” in forestry or tree care circles. These are often smaller to mid-sized branches which have partially broken off but are still lodged in the tree. After several weeks to a month the foliage starts to die and turn brown, and these “hangers” become obvious in trees that received damage. How do you assess these and when should you get a professional involved? Do they pose a potential health issue if not removed?
These broken limbs are becoming quite noticeable as they die and turn brown. It is important to make good decisions on how to handle these hanging dead branches and how to maintain your tree. Often these hangers are more unsightly than anything else, especially if they are small. Larger ones may pose a risk of damage or injury if they are located over a structure or may fall in an area frequented by people. Most of these hangers will break and dislodge over time, especially in wind events. You should consider the risk posed by the hanging limb, the difficulty and cost of addressing it, and the risk posed by the limb falling. For trees that got noticeable damage with several larger limbs broken, having some repair and rejuvenation pruning done is often good for tree health. You may be able to address some issues yourself if you are handy with a pole pruner and the broken limb is in reach. Anyone attempting even light tree work should be aware of risks posed by falling limbs and use of pole saws. Remember to never attempt to climb trees yourself or perform tree trimming from a ladder or height, as this is fundamentally unsafe. Even limbs which may be safely reached from the ground with a pole pruner can pose risks of injury. If you are attempting to remove some of these hangers with a pole pruner, be very cautious and use good safety techniques. You need to make sure the branch has a landing zone, and you are well clear of it when using a pole saw or pruner. Be aware of vines and other entanglements, and do not work around or within the right of way of electrical or other lines. Larger limbs and those not reachable from the ground should be considered outside the scope of homeowners and left to professionals.
Here is a quick reference guide for how to size up any broken or damaged limbs in your tree and address the situation
Small branches and branch tips with a diameter of the broken branch is 1 inch or less and the branch is hanging or lodged. These size hangers pose little risk and are mostly unsightly. They should fall out of the tree on their own over time. These may be trimmed out slightly behind the break of those within reach of a pole pruner.
Small to Medium branches-1-3 inches in diameter. The branch has partially broken or has completely broken and is lodged in another branch. Branches this size can do some light to moderate damage if they fall on a roof, fence, or other structure. If the branch overhangs areas where people or pets frequent it could cause injuries if it fails. If the branch does not pose a hazard or danger it should dislodge on its own over time. Consider removing these if they pose a risk. They can be removed from the ground with a pole pruner or pole saw but be very cautious as branches this size can easily injure someone that is in the fall zone. Consult a professional if a lift or climbing is required.
Large Canopy Branches 3 inches and larger. These are significant branches and can hold a significant amount of weight. If they are partially broken, hung, or lodged in the tree they may come out at any time and do significant damage or cause injury. These branches are beyond the tools and scope of homeowners, and the damage may require some recovery pruning to keep the tree healthy. Consult with a professional and consider having the damage removed and tree properly trimmed.
Main Branch and Trunk Failures- This is significant damage to the tree which can make it unsound or susceptible to disease in the future. If large main branches have failed, the top has completely failed, or part of the trunk has cracked or split from the damage; major damage has occurred and the tree may not recover. If your tree has suffered this level of damage consult a professional with a tree service and have a certified arborist examine the tree.
It can be hard to tell from the ground what level of damage a tree sustained until the brown foliage appears past the break. Once you can identify what type of damage occurred you can better determine what action is needed. For small branches it may be best just to wait for them to come out naturally or prune them out if this can be done safely with a pole pruner. For larger branches or more severe damage a professional is the best bet. For those hangers that pose a risk to structures or people in an area removal is best, as these could fall at any time and cause damage or injury. Remember never to attempt tree work yourself especially if it involves climbing or working from heights. You can find a certified arborist at www.treesaregood.org to address large limbs and significant damage. A good arborist can help you rehabilitate a tree that has had only moderate damage from a storm. If you are unsure of where to start with a tree that has wind damage, consult your local extension office for some advice.
The Pensacola area has had its fair share of rough weather lately. While the recent storms were not hurricanes, the rainfall totals rivaled many tropical storms, and the lighting and wind were disastrous. A tornado caused significant damage, including a tragic death, with more tumultuous weather in the forecast. Our rainy hurricane season has just begun, so it is worth talking about tree selection, management, and preparing for storms.
After the busy 1992, 1995, 1998, and 2004-05 hurricane seasons, several University of Florida researchers undertook an exhaustive on-the-ground project to look at tree damage statewide. Their goal was to determine which species survived high winds, and which trees were the most vulnerable during storms. Their findings were consistent, and have held up over the past few decades. A full description of the project can be found online, along with several publications that go over proper pruning and maintenance of trees, both before a storm and after recovery.
Live oaks, and sand live oaks (which live on coastal sand dunes) are slow-growing trees with extraordinarily dense wood. This protects them in hurricane-force winds. Part of the working theory on why bald cypress, holly, and magnolia do well in storms is their pyramidal shape, which seems to allow wind to whip circularly around the trees and avoid damage. Sabal palms are botanically considered part of the grass category and not trees, so their single, flexible trunk allows them to handle the onslaught of wind. Sweetgums are particularly hardy in tornadoes, due to their sturdy root system and shorter, “stout” branches. Smaller understory trees like crape myrtle and dogwood are likely dodging the strongest winds, but also have strong branch structures and dense wood. These two species, along with sand live oak, also lost an average of more than 80% of their leaves. This defoliation is an adaptation to heavy winds, with trees that lost leaves performing better overall than species that held onto their leaves but toppled at the trunk.
Another list of tree survivability was developed for residents in tropical and subtropical regions of the state. If you have friends or family in south-central Florida, be sure to share this information with them.
Besides planting wind-resistant species, the research team shared other observations related to tree planting and arrangement, too. Single trees are more vulnerable than trees planted in clusters, as they protect each other from incoming winds. Older trees, and those with preexisting damage, are more likely to fall. Trees with plenty of space around their roots do better—if a tree is surrounded on two or more sides with buildings or other hard surfaces, they cannot spread adequately. Detailed information on identifying damaged or poorly structured trees, along with maintenance and pruning tips, can be found in the “Urban Forest Hurricane Recovery Program” series of articles written by the UF tree specialists involved in the studies. The publications include good diagrams and photos of specific examples.
It is the time of year when we get reminded that we have just entered Hurricane season here on the Gulf Coast. Ideally you will have already done your tree maintenance and health checks around your home, but if you have not you can still get a tree care professional out to look at your trees. Maintaining your trees is an important part of storm preparedness. Keeping trees trimmed and in good health ensures that tree risks are minimized during the storm season. Even with proper pruning and maintenance some trees pose a risk due to location, poor structure, or disease. Having a professional assess your tree/trees and come up with a maintenance plan can help you avoid costly damage and keep your tree in good condition.
Trees are a major part of our landscape on the Gulf Coast, especially in our urban areas. They provide so many benefits to the landscape and are often the centerpiece of yards and parks in our urban areas. Without trees we lose the shade and cooling benefits a tree provides, have less habitat for birds and other wildlife, and loose aesthetic values that come with a majestic tree. Trees take a long time to grow and develop as well, so a large well-developed tree is not easily replaced. This naturally leads to a question many people find themselves facing. How do I preserve trees I want but minimize risk to my home and structures? The answer to this question is to assess the condition of the tree, the risk it may pose, and decide on the proper tree maintenance accordingly.
Lots of things go into determining what to do with a tree. The first thing to consider is location of the tree and its limbs. If the tree and its limbs are close to your home, you must consider how to maintain the tree in such a way that risks are minimized. If the tree has structural and/or health problems, you must factor in how these conditions affect the stability and health of a tree. The tree species also determines how it will need to be maintained as well as how stable it is in a wind event. All of these factors play into how to maintain the trees on your landscape, or if the tree poses an unacceptable risk, when to remove trees that may be in decline or present a hazard.
The best course of action is to consult with a tree care professional and develop a tree maintenance plan. Make sure you select a tree care professional with good qualifications, background, and insurance. The top professional credential in tree care is the International Society of Arboriculture’s (ISA) Certified Arborist. You can search for a Certified Arborist in your area on the ISA Website, Find an Arborist (treesaregood.org). For trees that you are concerned about from a risk perspective consider getting a Tree Risk Assessment. Certain Certified Arborists carry a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification which is a specialty qualification specifically to assess the risk a tree poses. By having your trees examined by an arborist you can make an informed decision on maintaining your landscape trees. For trees that are in good health and are species that do well in high winds, proper maintenance and pruning will assist in keeping the tree in good condition. For trees with health or structural problems or that are species that do poorly in high winds, removal may be needed.
There is no one size fits all solution to tree maintenance and tree risk, but with proper assessment and tree care you can be confident you are making the correct decision. Putting off tree care and assessment is when problems occur. Consulting with an arborist and developing a tree care plan with clear timelines and practices is your best option to maintain your trees and avoid issues with high-risk trees. As painful as it may be, for high-risk trees removal and replacement may be the best option. By consulting with a tree care professional, such as an arborist, you can know your tree conditions and the associated risks and options. With this information in hand, you can make well informed decisions that match your tree health and risk management goals.
Hurricane Season starts June 1 so we are are revisiting a video that discusses tree issues and property lines. There are often questions about who is responsible when storm-damaged trees end up on a neighbor’s property. UF IFAS Escambia County Extension discusses a few common situations using legal interpretations from the UF publication HANDBOOK OF FLORIDA FENCE AND PROPERTY LAW: TREES AND LANDOWNER RESPONSIBILITY.