Tree damage caused by wind #311024 - Ask Extension


Tree damage caused by wind #311024

Asked April 04, 2016, 8:49 AM EDT

Due to high gusting winds this past Saturday night, my Catonsville ornamental pear tree (which I think is a Bartlett), had 1/3 of itself break off. This huge section fell right into one of our small Japanese maple trees, ripping off a few main branches from the front of that tree. 1) Is there any way I can re-graft the Japanese Maple branches back onto that tree? Each of the missing branches was completely severed/cracked off from each remaining portion of the branch on the tree (i.e. not left "hanging by a thread"). If not, any suggestions on how to improve its now sadly deformed shape? 2) We have already bolted together our Bartlett pear tree years ago when it began to split in a different direction. That is not the side that broke off now. (The bolt is almost wholly overgrown with bark by now.) Would a professional tree person have to be the one that would prune our tree to prevent further such breakage, or could we do this ourselves? Also, given the gouge left by the section of the tree that cracked off, is there anything we can do to protect the tree from disease/insect infestation to the damaged bark? The breakage looks like it took off half of the branch vertically at the site of breakage; will this kill off that section of the tree due to removal of xylem/phloem?

Baltimore County Maryland

Expert Response

The tree on the right and middle photos looks like a Bradford pear.  This tree is invasive and we do not recommend planting it. It also has tight branch crotches that split in storms.  We recommend removal.  The tree will eventually decline and looks like it is in a prominent place in your landscape. If you replace, consider a native tree species.

Japanese maple - There is no way to regraft or attach the missing bark.  We recommend pruning the dead limbs and and ragged wounds. No pruning paint is recommended as it can interfere with the healing process. You will have to keep the tree well watered during dry periods. The tree looks like it may be planted too deeply.  You should be able to see the flare at the base of the trunk where it joins the root system.  Make sure mulch is no thicker than several inches and keep away from the base of the trunk. See our publication
Thank you for your speedy and thorough response.  Unfortunately, we were the fools who planted (a tiny) Bradford Pear in the first place - only to learn many years after the problems with this type of tree.  At this point in time, it is not feasible for us to have it removed.  What would you recommend, in the meantime, in order for us to keep it - yet in as safe a way as possible?  Aside from additional pruning of major horizontal-leaning branches, do you expect that the damaged trunk will die out and should therefore be completely removed?  If not, how should we protect the damaged area from insect infestation?

Thank you.
The Question Asker Replied April 04, 2016, 2:15 PM EDT
One of the problems with Bradford pears, in addition to the fact that they are devastating the Maryland landscape because they are so invasive, in that they slowly self-destruct.  They have narrow, weak crotches and the branches/trunks will keep breaking off. This is the nature of the tree.  The bigger and older they get, the more breakage occurs.  Sorry.

Because the newest break is so ragged, it will hold water and rot faster.  There are "wound dressing" products on the market for spraying on tree wounds, but they do not work.  They slow down healing.  Your best bet is to have the break cut to make it smooth so that water runs off.  However, from looking at the photo, the wound seems to be concave and probably impossible to cut very smooth. 

You can remove limbs yourself or hire someone, but the choice of which ones to remove is beyond our ability to explain through this media. Since you will have to remove limbs as they break, why not remove them all?  Then the trunk.  Seems like that would be cheaper and less exhausting. You can also pay an arborist to selectively remove limbs and do more bolting. Repeatedly.  Again, that will add up to a bigger expense than simply removing the tree. 
Yikes! Believe it or not, I carefully researched before planting any of the trees on my property (and we have planted plenty), but nothing back then in anything I read warned me about the problems with the Bradford Pear.  Once I learned about the problems (years after planting), however, I thought that with proper pruning it could work.  So much for that idea.  We actually had pruned this a ton, and it still wasn't enough.

Thank you for all your help.
The Question Asker Replied April 05, 2016, 11:36 AM EDT
You are most welcome, and we sympathize.  

Yes, the drawbacks of Bradfords took a while to become apparent.Sad story. Spread the news, because some nurseries still insist on selling them and many people do not know about them yet.  

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